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Why the BMA is suing one of its own
NHS whistleblowing, Issue 1386
ed jesudason.jpg
WHISTLING IN THE WIND: Whistleblowing surgeon Ed Jesudason, who faces bankruptcy now he is being sued by the BMA, his own professional body
“THE freedom to raise concerns without fear of reprisal is vitally important for patient safety.” So trumpets the British Medical Association (BMA) in response to Sir Robert Francis’s Freedom to Speak Up Review. So why is the BMA suing whistleblowing surgeon Ed Jesudason for legal costs of up to £250,000 resulting from the collapse of a high court battle? If successful, it will bankrupt him.

Jesudason’s “crime” was to refuse to sign a compromise agreement brokered by the BMA’s appointed solicitors that demanded he destroy documents, including letters which exposed false claims that another whistleblowing surgeon at Alder Hey, Shiban Ahmed, was suicidal. The documents also exposed how poor the representation of Mr Ahmed was by the BMA.

Instead of taking the gag, Jesudason shared this evidence with the Care Quality Commission, Mr Ahmed and the campaign group Patients First, of which MD is a patron. MD was so appalled by the treatment of Jesudason and Ahmed, and the failure to thoroughly investigate their patient safety concerns, he wrote about it repeatedly in the Eye (issues 1364 & 1336).

Protected disclosures
Jesudason also made protected disclosures about the surgery department at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital Foundation Trust in 2009, and says the BMA acted against his wishes to settle the case in 2012. When the BMA realised he was sharing information with third parties, it pulled out of the case which caused it to collapse.

On the eve of collapse, 16 December 2012, MD was contacted by Janine Allen, a partner at Gately LLP (appointed by the BMA to represent Jesudason) and ordered to “permanently destroy as a matter of urgency” all email communications between myself and Jesudason. On 17 December, I received a demand from the same Janine Allen to “forward to us as a matter of urgency” all email communications between myself and Jesudason.

Jesudason is now expected to pay £250,000 for this confusing and contradictory representation. As he told the Health Service Journal: "The trust offered me a six-figure sum to go quietly, which I refused. I just wanted matters investigated. Days before we sought to make the injunction permanent and against my express wishes, my BMA lawyers tried to get an even bigger pay-off in return for destruction of the concealed evidence about Mr Ahmed. I have not slept under a roof of my own since 2012, and if the BMA win it would render me insolvent.”

Doctors who bully other doctors
The BMA knows better than anyone how badly whistleblowing doctors are treated, as it generally represents them at tribunals. It has a huge database of cases and compromise agreements that it presumably submitted to the Francis Inquiry. And yet the BMA does not get a single mention in the Freedom to Speak Up Review.

A whistleblower would naturally turn to his or her union for independent help, support and advocacy; yet in MD’s experience, more often the union will seek to suppress the concerns with a gagging clause and a pay-off rather than risk the wrath of, say, a large hospital that employs many more of its members. Often it is doctors who bully other doctors in whistleblowing cases, and all are “represented” by the same union.

Jesudason received a standing ovation at the BMA’s annual representative meeting in June 2014, and the meeting then called on health secretary Jeremy Hunt to hold a public inquiry into whistleblowing and to explore how the BMA could offer more support to whistleblowers. BMA leader Dr Mark Porter does not appear to have asked Hunt for such a public inquiry. The BMA claims Jesudason “did not follow advice provided by the legal team instructed to represent him, and shared confidential information externally”.

Concerns about patient safety
Coincidentally, this information is profoundly embarrassing to the BMA, as well as exposing serious concerns about patient safety and bullying at Alder Hey hospital. Jesudason, who has just £9,000 to his name, would rather give the money to Médicins Sans Frontières to fight ebola than to the BMA. The super-rich BMA has put £250,000 aside to pursue £241,000 Jesudason simply doesn’t have.

The Commons health select committee and Robert Francis are to be congratulated for acknowledging so publicly the pain and detriment whistleblowers suffer. But without unions and lawyers on their side, they will never win. In MD’s view, it is still not safe to blow the whistle in the NHS. And patients suffer as a result.

M.D.

Columnists
Issue 1386
agri brigade
With Bio-Waste Spreader: "The purchase by Sir James Dyson of the 3,000-acre Cranwell and Roxholme estate in Lincolnshire means the bagless vacuum cleaner magnate now has land holdings that, in England, exceed those of the Queen. Dyson ‘enjoys farming in Lincolnshire’; but what effect does the aggressive purchase of so much land by him and other ‘lifestyle buyers’ have on ordinary farmers?…”
signal failures
With Dr B Ching: "Network Rail, a central government body since September, is helping insulate the Tories’ election campaign from bad news on rail electrification. Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin and his department’s permanent secretary Philip Rutnam are officially accountable to parliament for Network Rail; but in December they dodged MPs’ questions about delays to electrification schemes. As they stonewalled, NR was failing to get lines linking Liverpool, Manchester and Wigan ready for electric trains ‘from December 2014’ – as McLoughlin had promised in 2013...”
eye tv
With Remote Controller: "A number of advance pieces have suggested that Indian Summers, a 10-part period piece set during the British Raj, is something a bit different for Channel 4, which is more associated with contemporary stories of terrorism, drugs and gay sex. But in fact, back in 1984, in only its third year on air, the network’s schedule included The Far Pavilions, an epic drama set among the 19th-century rulers of India… Many elements are very recognisable in Indian Summers: cholera, nationalist uprisings, sweat patches, kedgeree on the verandah and the Himalayas… So… what does Indian Summers have to add to the genre of Raj-drama?...
[Review of Indian Summers (C4)]
nooks and corners
With Piloti: "The former new home for Edinburgh’s ancient High School stands on a magnificent site on the side of Calton Hill overlooking the city. It was designed by Thomas Hamilton and, after much debate and considerable expense, built in fine Craigleith stone in 1825-29. Ever since it has been recognised as a monument of exceptional quality; a masterpiece of Greek Revival architecture and one of the principal glories of the ‘Athens of the North’. John Summerson thought it ‘the noblest monument of the Scottish Greek Revival’; while for Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson it was one of ‘unquestionably the two finest buildings in the kingdom’… So it is extraordinary that such a monument is threatened with being prostituted by its guardians, but so it is…”
music and musicians
With Lunchtime O’Boulez: "No one who gives time and effort to a job likes to be left out when it comes to recognition. So it’s easy to understand the outrage felt by members of the BBC Symphony Chorus when they were ignored in a statement the BBC made about its musical achievements. It was one of those self-congratulatory advertisements the Beeb puts on Facebook to remind the world it is worth the licence fee; and in essence it was fair enough, listing the 400 concerts, 600 broadcast hours and so on delivered by the ‘five orchestras and one singing group’ that perform under the BBC banner. But the ‘one singing group’ referred to is the elite, professional BBC Singers. As for the Symphony Chorus, and its several hundred dedicated amateurs who volunteer year-round and are the backbone of the Proms and garner Grammy nominations, there was not a word…”
books and bookmen
With Bookworm: "Teaching creative writing is what links three of the five judges of the Folio prize, which has announced its 2015 shortlist – and five of the eight chosen authors (indeed, the judge AM Homes and the shortlistee Ben Lerner teach the same course at Princeton). But how ‘creative’ are the selected novels?…”
in the city
With Slicker: "As the ever bouffant and perma-tanned Richard Caring paid all the tax that was due on his £100m in dividends from retail chain BHS, why did he hide the fact that he was a significant shareholder? What was the advantage or reason? Why did his long-time business partner and close friend Sir Philip Green collaborate in such a curious arrangement? What (if any) was the advantage to the man who ran BHS and who was not only widely perceived as but consistently stated to be the sole owner with his family?…”
Letter from New Delhi
From Our Own Correspondent: "
Our mighty prime minister Narendra Modi’s bespoke £10,000 suit, with his name embroidered over and over into its pinstripes, is losing its narcissistic sheen. Just nine months after assuming power following a mighty electoral victory, the seemingly unassailable Modi, who flaunted this self-indulgent ensemble at a meeting with Barack Obama in Delhi, has suffered his first political humiliation in the capital city’s assembly polls…”
To read all these columnists and more in full, you can buy the latest edition of Private Eye - or subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale:
3rd March 2015.
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Next issue on sale: 3rd March 2015.

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