• University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay FT asks NHSE/I to commission independent, external review into its urology unit
  • Follows patient safety concerns being raised at employment tribunal which concluded last November

An independent review has been ordered into a hospital trust’s urology unit after patient safety concerns were put to an employment tribunal.

Peter Duffy, a former urologist consultant at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust, claimed three of his then colleagues made a series of clinical errors over several years in the course of an employment tribunal last year.

The tribunal in Manchester received evidence of claims that a patient lost a testicle after being wrongly diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease, another nearly had the wrong kidney removed and a third with an infected kidney went a week without emergency surgery. These allegations formed part of his pre-trial evidence but did not form part of his final claim.

Aaron Cummins, UHMBT’s chief executive, said the trust has now written to NHS England and Improvement asking for an independent review to ensure these issues are investigated fully.

He added: “We are grateful NHSE/I [has] responded positively to our request for an external, independent, review and we look forward to contributing to the work once the terms of reference and the process for conducting the review are clarified.”

NHSE/I also confirmed to HSJ the region is working with UHMBT and partners within the local health and care system to appoint an independent chair for the review.

Earlier this month, The North West Evening Mail reported governor Dave Welton urged police to launch an investigation into the “very serious concerns” at a meeting of the council of governors.

Cumbria police do not have any live investigations into the matter but told HSJ consideration will be given to one if assessments of the circumstances suggest suspicion of any criminality.

In 2015, Mr Duffy transferred from the Royal Lancaster Infirmary to Furness General Hospital, which are both run by UHMBT, but resigned less than a year later. In his case to the tribunal, he claimed UHMBT made unlawful deductions from his salary and failed to honour an agreement where he would be paid £200,000 per year in a new job plan.

He also argued he was unfairly dismissed and the case “went beyond the issue” of pay as he was the subject of internal racism allegations, which were lodged by the trio of former colleagues.

Judge David Franey ruled the £200,000 figure was “aspirational”, and not contractually binding, while the claims against the three doctors did not influence the situation regarding his pay. However, he concluded Mr Duffy was constructively, unfairly dismissed after UHMBT did not pay £500 per additional capacity session from October 2015 for 12 months.

The tribunal’s judgment read: “The failure of the respondent [UHMBT] to honour that agreement from October 2015 onwards, and the length of time it took for the provisional conclusions to be issued without any explanation to the claimant [Mr Duffy] of what was happening, the flawed approach to the review and the nature of the provisional conclusions contained in the report, resulted in a fundamental breach of contract.

“The claimant resigned in response to that breach and, therefore, he was constructively, unfairly dismissed.”

Mr Duffy was awarded a payout in excess of £100,000 and now resides on the Isle of Man. He published a book, titled Whistle in the Wind, in July which details his 35 years of experience “on the frontline” of the NHS.

One of the three doctors Mr Duffy made claims against, Dr Kavinder Madhra, currently has conditions imposed on their licence by the General Medical Council and is facing a medical practitioners tribunal in January. He is no longer employed at UHMBT, but two of other doctors involved are, though HSJ understands one of them is on sick leave.

Mr Cummins said UHMBT welcomes any independent scrutiny of its urology services and the concerns raised by Mr Duffy. He added: “Since concerns were raised, we have carried out a number of different investigations into the service, and into the practices of different clinicians.

“These included an invited visit by the Royal College of Surgeons in 2015, which resulted in a number of recommendations.

“Whilst not dismissing any concerns, I want to acknowledge that our trust has a dedicated team within our urology service who are working hard providing the service for our patients.”

HSJ has approached UHMBT and asked if the doctors concerned wish to comment personally. The trust has said it will approach those doctors but none have responded at the time of going to press.

UHMBT has previously come under fire for its maternity services. In 2015, an independent investigation found a “lethal mix” of failures in a “seriously dysfunctional” maternity unit at the trust’s Furness General Hospital contributed to the unnecessary deaths of 11 babies and a mother between 2004 and 2013.

UPDATE: This story was updated at 2.03pm to reflect that claims about patient safety formed part of Mr Duffy’s pre-trial evidence but were not part of his final claim