Tribunal judge orders that radiology manager who reported senior doctors' misconduct be reinstated on her full salary
An NHS worker with an unblemished 27-year career was sacked after she blew the whistle on senior doctors who were moonlighting at a private hospital while being paid to diagnose NHS patients, an employment tribunal has heard.
Sharmila Chowdhury, 51, the radiology service manager at Ealing Hospital NHS Trust, repeatedly warned the hospital's most senior managers that doctors were dishonestly claiming thousands of pounds every month.
A Watford employment tribunal judge took the unusual step last week of ordering the trust to reinstate Ms Chowdhury's full salary and said: "I have no hesitation in saying that you are probably going to win."
The ruling will be a bitter blow for the trust, particularly as despite the seriousness of the allegations, it failed for two years to take any action against Miranda Harvie and Peter Schnatterback, the two doctors accused of fraud at the hearing.
Instead, Ms Chowdhury was suspended after a counter-allegation of fraud made against her by a junior whom she had reported for breaching patient safety. Radiographer Michael McWha made the allegation at the request of Dr Harvie, the tribunal heard. Ms Chowdhury was sacked for gross misconduct in June, eight months after her suspension.
This case is the latest to highlight the inadequate legal protection for whistleblowers who speak out about wrongdoing in the NHS. It also raises the uncomfortable question about the power yielded in the NHS by senior doctors. The onus is now on the trust to prove at next February's tribunal that Ms Chowdhury was guilty of fraud and not, as she claims, sacked because she was a whistleblower.
Speaking after the judgment, a tearful Ms Chowdhury expressed her relief after months of financial hardship. A widow with a teenage son, Ms Chowdhury has been forced to move back in with her elderly parents and rely on the goodwill of outraged lawyers. She told The Independent on Sunday: "I cannot believe what has happened to me. I was horrified and humiliated when escorted out of the building, and for a whole month, I had no idea why I was suspended. I was just doing my job. I thought the trust would want to know consultants were doing private work on NHS time. The public has a right to know what is happening with public money.
"This whole thing has completely changed me. I'm trying to stay positive but I loved my work, my department, and there are not many jobs out there. I hope the trust sees sense and tries to resolve the situation. If it hadn't been for Julie Morris at Russell Jones and Walker who took on my case for free, I would have lost everything I'd worked for all my life."
Source: The Independent