NHS whistleblower told he was an 'unacceptable risk' to patients

NHS consultant credited with saving life of Broadchurch star Sarah Parish was ‘astonished’ when chief executive claimed he was an ‘unacceptable risk’ to patients after he blew whistle over young mother’s death, tribunal hears

  • Martyn Pitman was told by chief executive she had no evidence to back up claim
  • The consultant said he suffered over four years of ‘disruptive victimisation’ 
  • READ MORE: Broadchurch star Sarah Parish calls for sacked doctor who saved her life giving birth to be reinstated 

An NHS consultant who raised concerns a young mother’s death in childcare had been the result of clinical negligence told a tribunal he was stunned when the trust’s chief executive then said he was an ‘unacceptable risk’ to patient safety.

When obstetrician Martyn Pitman questioned Alex Whitfield about what evidence she had of this, to his ‘astonishment’ she replied ‘I don’t have any’, an employment tribunal heard.

The consultant of 20 years, with an ‘exemplary’ clinical record, claims he was forced out of his job when he blew the whistle on poor care putting patients at risk and causing the woman’s death in childbirth.

The 57-year-old alleges he was subjected to a ‘vexatiously lodged’ disciplinary investigation for blowing the whistle in 2019.

The senior doctor claimed the tragic death of the young mother – 32 year old Lucy Howell – came as a ‘direct result’ of managers failing to address his concerns of falling standards in the department at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Martyn Pitman claims he was forced out of his job after whistleblowing on inadequate care putting patients at risk

Mr Pitman was sacked from Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester after he raised concerns about a mother Lucy Powell’s death in childcare, but was told by the trust’s chief executive that she had no evidence to back up her claim he was an ‘unacceptable risk’ to patient safety

He said he and colleagues also flagged ‘dangerously low staffing levels’ which he claimed had led to ‘evidence of deteriorating standards of care… which posed a direct threat to patient safety’.

In March this year, Mr Pitman was sacked from his job at Royal Hampshire County hospital (RHCH) in Winchester, Hampshire.

He is now suing the ‘deficient’ Trust and Chief Medical Officer Lara Alloway at the tribunal, claiming he was fired for making a ‘public interest disclosure’.

He claims his dismissal came after he was ‘subjected to brutal retaliatory victimisation’ which left him with clinical depression.

Since his sacking, more than 1,500 patients and co-workers have rallied to support him, including actress Sarah Parish.

Broadchurch actress Parish, 55, tragically lost baby Ella-Jayne in 2009, but said Dr Pitman’s subsequent care for her following two pregnancies ‘saved not only my life, but certainly my daughter’s life’.

Mr Pitman’s tribunal follows the case of serial killer nurse Lucy Letby, who murdered seven infants and attempted to murder six others at the Countess of Chester Hospital between 2015 and 2016.

After her trial it emerged senior doctors had repeatedly tried to raise the alarm with NHS managers about her being a potential danger but their concerns were dismissed.

Giving evidence at the hearing in Southampton, Mr Pitman said: ‘It is impossible, in my mind, to divorce my whistleblowing from the formal disciplinary procedure against me and what resulted from it.’

READ MORE: ‘He’s the very reason why I’m here and my daughter is here’: Broadchurch star Sarah Parish calls for sacked doctor who saved her life giving birth to be reinstated

After being suspended from work, having raised a complaint, Mr Pitman returned in September 2020, the hearing was told.

‘My reintroduction was managed in a vindictive nature,’ he said.

‘That was probably the most professionally damaging.

‘I was probably a bit like a pressure cooker. I knew what was coming.

‘I was accused of not being competent by two senior consultants in a job that I had done for years – I was a mess.

‘To my astonishment, having not been found guilty in the investigation, my job had been changed, which remains a mystery to me.’

In February 2021, Mr Pitman emailed senior members of the Trust to highlight the ‘destructive handling’ of his case.

Mr Pitman hit out at the Trust’s ‘litany of deficiencies’ in handling his case, saying they ‘did not genuinely support whistleblowing’ and there was an ‘endemic culture of managerial bullying’ within it.

Asked if he thought he had done the right thing in 2019 and would do the same again, he answered: ‘Yes.

‘Because as a consultant of 17 years and standing there was and is [that culture].

‘I still stand by that now.’

The hearing was told Mr Pitman had likened his case with Amin Abdullah, an NHS nurse who took his own life after being dismissed from Charing Cross Hospital in London.

Mr Pitman added: ‘There is a correlation between my case and that at Charing Cross.

‘There are chilling similarities between the handling of nurse Abdullah’s case and mine.’

The consultant of 20 years hit back at the Trust and what he called its culture of ‘managerial bullying’ 

When it was put to him the cases were very different and his comparison ‘opportunistic’, Mr Pitman told the hearing his treatment had taken its toll on his mental health.

‘Management of my case caused aggravated clinical depression,’ he said.

Mr Pitman has told the hearing he raised concerns about the death in March 2021 of Mrs Howell and suggested it may have been due to clinical negligence.

At his grievance conclusion meeting four months later in July 2021, Mr Pitman was told no aspects of his case had been upheld but other concerns had been raised that ‘needed a further discussion’.

‘The Chief Executive of the Trust proceeded to claim that my return to the department, which I believe I had served with great distinction, posed an unacceptable risk to patient safety,’ he said.

An incredulous Mr Pitman said he had resorted to a disbelieving laugh, adding: ‘I said ‘what shred of evidence have you got?’

‘The response was ‘at the moment I don’t have any’.’

Mr Pitman said the ‘libellous and astonishing’ statement led him to believe the ‘writing was on the wall’ and he was being forced out.

He said: ‘There is a toxic managerial structure at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.’

Mr Pitman told the tribunal that in a bid to voice concerns about how his whistleblowing case had been managed he had worked his way up the pyramid of bosses within the Trust before realising the ‘deficiency ran throughout the organisation’.

Mr Pitman said the ‘libellous and astonishing’ statement led him to believe the ‘writing was on the wall’ and he was being forced out, and broke down while addressing the tribunal panel after saying he was put through ‘four and a half years of disruptive victimisation’

Addressing the panel, he said: ‘I realise it sounds as though this guy is complaining about everybody – and I accept that, because there is a legitimate need to.’

Mr Pitman broke down as he told how he had been put through ‘four and a half years of disruptive victimisation’.

‘I’m hoping that this is proving that,’ the married father of two added.

‘I said to the Chief Executive, you are pushing me into a position where I have nothing left to lose, I’ve lost my career, I can’t provide for my family any more.

‘I didn’t want this to happen.’

He claims he suffered a detriment due to exercising rights under the Public Interest Disclosure Act.

The employment tribunal continues.

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