A senior cardiologist fired from his job at Croydon University Hospital after raising concerns about patient safety has alleged he was victimised for blowing the whistle on staffing shortages, inadequate equipment and bullying.
Kevin Beatt, who was dismissed from his position as consultant in September 2012, claims Croydon’s NHS trust “ignored” his concerns to hush up its role in the death of a 62-year-old patient during routine surgery.
The trust fired Dr Beatt, who has 28 years of experience of interventional heart surgery, accusing him of making “vexatious and calculated” allegations about patient safety.
The dispute, which reached a head at a tribunal this week, follows the death of Gerald Storey, of Addiscombe, at the hospital on June 9, 2011.
Mr Storey died of cardiac arrest following complications during an operation to widen his arteries.
The procedure was performed by Dr Beatt, who was unaware his most senior nurse had been suspended that day and maintains he would not have begun the operation had he known.
At an inquest in July last year, coroner Dr Roy Palmer ruled Sister Lucy Jones’s absence had contributed to the death.
Dr Beatt, who was left for 20 minutes without a nurse with even basic familiarity with the operation, described Sister Jones’s suspension as “the most overtly reckless act” he had witnessed in his career.
In evidence submitted to the tribunal, he said: “Thursday June 9, 2011, was by far the most upsetting day that I have experienced in my medical career and it is still difficult to comprehend how the sequence of events could possibly occur in a civilised health system.”
Four days after Mr Storey’s death, Dr Beatt claims he was verbally threatened by Nick Hulme, then the trust’s chief executive, who allegedly warned him not to make accusations about his managers in relation to what happened.
He told the tribunal: “I felt very intimidated by Mr Hulme’s statement and it was a clear warning to me that the trust did not want me to raise patient safety concerns and wanted to protect the management team from any suggestion that their decision to suspend Sister Jones may have contributed to the death.”
Croydon Health Services NHS Trust denied Dr Beatt’s allegations.
It also alleged Dr Beatt made “unsubstantiated and unproven allegations of an unsafe service and unsafe staffing levels” to the coroner.
Richard Parker, chairman of Dr Beatt’s disciplinary panel, said the cardiologist had “shown an alarming lack of insight into his own conduct throughout proceedings” and had failed to maintain effective working relationships with colleagues, including fellow consultant Dr Asif Qasim.
Dr Beatt alleged Dr Qasim persistently harassed and bullied junior staff to such an extent that operations ground to a halt in August 2010, when two nurses left work in tears and a third refused to work with him.
The tribunal also heard Dr Beatt’s allegations that the trust failed to replace ageing equipment for three years despite him raising concerns.
The tribunal, adjourned until July 7, will decide whether the trust was wrong to refuse Dr Beatt whistleblower status, which would have protected him from dismissal.