Dismissed cardiologist who warned hospital overcrowding was killing patients was paid £560,000 to stay at home during ten-year battle to clear his name
A leading heart specialist who was sacked after raising concerns about dangerous post-operative care at one of Britain’s worst hospitals is at the centre of a decade-long battle to clear his name that could land the NHS with a £10 million bill.
Dr Raj Mattu, a £70,000-a-year cardiologist, was paid to do nothing for eight years while suspended on full pay before being sacked in 2010. He is now taking his case to an employment tribunal that is due to last at least 12 weeks. Hospital bosses are expected to defend the case, which has already cost more than £6 million including legal fees.
Dr Mattu will accuse his former employers of racial and disability discrimination – he was ill in hospital when he was sacked – unfair dismissal and failing to protect him under legislation designed to encourage whistleblowing.
If successful, payments for damages, loss of earnings and injury to feelings could take the total over £10 million. The case is believed to be the NHS’s longest-running and most expensive whistleblower dispute.
Supporters of the internationally renowned cardiologist say his career was ruined and his health destroyed when he was suspended from his job at Coventry’s failing Walsgrave Hospital in 2002 after complaining that overcrowded wards had caused the deaths of at least two patients.
Dr Mattu claims one of his patients died while he was attempting to resuscitate him in a bay so overcrowded that nurses could not reach him with vital lifesaving equipment. Dr Mattu and two senior nursing colleagues lodged an official serious clinical incident report on the case, which his supporters claim was ignored by managers at the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust.
He raised a Public Interest Disclosure about the money-saving management policy of placing five beds in bays designed for four patients which he says cost at least two lives.
The majority of the hospital’s doctors, nurses and consultants backed his appeal for an end to the ‘five-in-four’ policy, but pleas were ignored. The trust’s then chief executive, David Loughton, subsequently denied any deaths or harm to patients. He claimed only those fit to be discharged were placed in such beds.
After failing to get a response from the trust, Dr Mattu sought advice from the Medical Protection Society, the British Medical Association and the General Medical Council and was advised to go public.
As a consequence of his campaign, Dr Mattu believes he was branded a troublemaker and his career ruined. Five months after making his complaint, he was suspended from duty and accused of bullying.
A disciplinary inquiry in 2005, chaired by Andrew Stafford QC, recommended that Dr Mattu be reinstated but its conclusion was ignored by trust bosses. And a disciplinary file passed to the GMC containing more than 200 allegations, including the bullying claims, was dismissed by the GMC in 2009.
In the wake of Dr Mattu’s suspension, a reinstatement campaign was launched with a 6,000-strong petition. Campaign spokesman Brian King said: ‘Dr Mattu was trying to highlight to the management that patients’ lives were being put in danger. He had no choice but to take the matter public.’
But ever since, Dr Mattu has been unable to work as his dispute rumbled on. He got engaged in 2003 and was still off work when he married his wife Sangeeta in 2009.
Shortly before his suspension, a series of independent reports into care at the hospital – given a zero-star rating by the Department of Health in September 2001 – appeared to vindicate his concerns.
A clinical governance report by the Commission for Health Improvement (CHI) listed a number of serious criticisms and found the hospital had a death rate far higher than expected.
The CHI condemned the policy of ‘five-in-four’ and demanded it be stopped immediately. It also warned of a ‘culture of fear’ created by senior managers when dealing with staff raising complaints.
A damning independent audit by the private health consumer company Dr Foster discovered the trust had the worst survival rates in the country for heart-bypass surgery.
Dr Mattu is currently pursuing a separate claim of breach of contract against the trust, which he plans to take to the Supreme Court after losing his case at the High Court and then at the Court of Appeal.
John Hendy QC, representing Dr Mattu at the High Court in 2011, summed up the conundrum facing his client. He said: ‘The decision of the trust is so potent he is effectively disabled from working in the NHS. Dr Mattu has been rendered unemployable.’
Dr Mattu and his solicitor Stephen Moore declined to comment last night. Walsgrave Hospital closed six years ago and was replaced under the Private Finance Initiative by the University Hospital, Coventry.
A trust spokeswoman said: ‘Dr Mattu has already brought a claim against the trust in the High Court which he pursued to the Court of Appeal. This claim was unsuccessful and Dr Mattu was ordered to pay the trust’s costs. ‘The courts fully endorsed the approach taken by the trust and we expect the employment tribunal will reach the same conclusion.’
The night that set back NHS reform for years
The rest of the world may have been perplexed, but it was 20 minutes that made Britain feel better about itself. The dancing doctors, the nurses in their old-fashioned uniforms, the cute children bouncing on 300 luminous beds that spelt out those sacred three letters: NHS.
What else could have symbolised Britain at its best than Danny Boyle’s tribute to the health service in his breathtaking Olympic opening ceremony?
Amid the dark satanic mills and pogoing punks, here was a special moment to give thanks and praise to something British that we deem the envy of the world.
After all, our doctors are deities and the National Health Service is sacrosanct — the one arm of the State beyond criticism. There was even a salute to Great Ormond Street Hospital, which has a unique place in the nation’s affections.
So who could quibble with Danny Boyle’s declamation after his opening night triumph that everyone in Britain loves the NHS? ‘It is something that is very dear to people’s hearts,’ he said. ‘It is an amazing thing to celebrate.’
If only, in my view, that were true. True, the health service is an invaluable institution that has saved many lives. But we should stop and ask ourselves why, if it is quite so wonderful, no other major nation has adopted our system.
Perhaps it is because the last time the World Health Organisation ranked countries’ health systems, Britain came in below Greece, Malta, Oman and Portugal. More recent studies found we had the worst patient care among seven leading industrialised nations and among the lowest cancer survival rates in the Western world.
This may seem harsh, but I believe Britain’s sentimentality over its health system — which will intensify now Boyle has decreed it to be an official strand of our island story — is preventing real reform, a damaging and ultimately self-defeating national tragedy.
The truth is the NHS is a relic of a bygone age in dire need of life-saving surgery.
And if Britons’ misty-eyed myopia prevents us seeing this, the patients who will suffer are those most in need — the old, the disabled and the long-term sick.
At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, Boyle is wrong: not everyone adores the NHS.
There are, of course, many dedicated doctors and nurses, while some areas, such as palliative and emergency care, generally work superbly. But for those of us who have seen its underbelly, exposed with all its flaws and imperfections, there is little affection for this outdated institution.
As the father of a child with profound and multiple learning difficulties, I have seen too many blunders, too much insensitivity and too little care for the most vulnerable patients to share the faith in Britain’s national religion these days.
Yet I am not alone. One mother of a disabled child told me how, as she watched the Olympic opening ceremony at a campsite in Dorset, she started raging over the NHS segment to the amazement of her fellow campers. Hailing Great Ormond Street was the final straw.
And in the words of the father of another child with disabilities, it is sickening to hear constantly the mantra of how brilliant the NHS is from people who do not rely on it and are not engaged in a near daily struggle against its inertia and ineptitude.
After writing about my family’s experiences, I have received countless letters and emails from pensioners, parents, sons and daughters — all angered at how the post-war dream of decent healthcare for all has turned into a personal nightmare for their families. They told of deadly mistakes and missing case files, of dirty hospitals and uncaring staff, of dreadful management and bungling bureaucracy.
‘I have been in a similar boat,’ said one mother, a former NHS scientist. ‘Six years of incompetence, laziness, carelessness, political in-fighting, suffering careerists and cowards.’
These are not isolated examples. Spot checks by the Care Quality Commission watchdog found ‘alarming’ failings in basic care for the elderly at more than half the hospitals visited, underlining scathing reports by the Patients’ Association.
One old man was left sitting in his own faeces for hours because a nurse said she did not have time to help. In another case, a family had to beg for pain relief for a dying woman. Stories of elderly patients starved of food, water or simply ignored by staff are horrifically common.
Earlier this year, the Mail exposed how dehydration or malnutrition was linked to the deaths of 1,316 patients in 2010. Last month, an inquest revealed a hospital patient died of dehydration after becoming so desperate for a drink of water that he called the police for help.
Little wonder so many old people fear going to hospital when they risk dying of thirst or hunger in a place that is meant to protect them — especially since these death-rate figures seem to be rising.
All too often there is shameful lack of compassion for those in their twilight years. Care in the community is often no better, few things being more misnamed as a series of appalling scandals has revealed, while patients with learning difficulties face potentially fatal discrimination.
Mencap, the respected charity, has compiled data on close to 100 deaths over the past decade that were due to discrimination by medical staff. They include a man with Down’s syndrome, starved for 26 days after suffering a stroke, and patients abandoned in agony without medication…..
Much more HERE
Single-parent families so common in today’s Britain that couples are now a minority
There are close to 2million single-parent families in the UK and we have the highest proportion of children brought up in one-parent families of any major European country.
The seven areas where single-parent families are the majority are in the urban hearts of London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds. In one constituency, Lewisham Deptford, 58 per cent of households with children are headed by lone parents.
At the other end of the spectrum, in the rural district of South Northamptonshire just one in every 20 family units is headed by a single parent.
The figures, from a Freedom of Information request to the Office for National Statistics, were greeted with concern yesterday.
Jill Kirby, a social policy expert and former director of the Centre for Policy Studies, said: ‘Children need input from both parents in order to thrive.
‘Research shows children growing up in fatherless homes are much less likely to do well at school and are at twice the risk of getting into problems with drink or drugs, or involved in crime. The UK welfare system has been partly to blame, by providing a substitute breadwinner rather than encouraging parents to stick together.’
Two years ago a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which represents industrialised nations, exposed Britain’s shocking record on broken homes.
It found we have more children living in one-parent families than any other European country and more of our single mothers are unemployed and on benefit than anywhere else on the Continent.
The study revealed 23 per cent of British children up to the age of 14 live in single-parent families, behind the US on 26 per cent. And 48 per cent of single mothers in Britain are unemployed, the highest rate in the OECD apart from Turkey.
The Parliamentary constituency with the highest proportion of lone-parent families is Lewisham Deptford in South East London, which includes such places as New Cross, Brockley and Honor Oak.
There are around 8,000 lone-parent families in the seat – represented by hard-left Labour MP Joan Ruddock – making up 58 per cent of the total.
Next comes Lewisham East and Liverpool Riverside, both on 56 per cent. Manchester Central and Vauxhall are on 54 per cent, while Birmingham Ladywood and Leeds Central are on 53 per cent.
The area where children are most likely to live with two parents is South Northamptonshire, which covers small towns such as Brackley and Towcester.
Just 5 per cent of families in the seat, represented by the Tory Andrea Leadsom, are headed by a lone parent. North East Hampshire and Wycombe are next on 7 per cent, while Devizes and South Norfolk are on 8 per cent.
Rise of the IGCSE: Hundreds of British state schools go for tough new exam
State schools are turning away from the traditional GCSE and offering pupils a tougher exam based on O-levels, figures show. The number teaching the international GCSE has soared by 300 per cent since Education Secretary Michael Gove gave them more freedom to do so.
Two-thirds of public schools already enter students for the IGCSE, which does not focus on coursework.
Labour had banned state schools from adopting IGCSEs in key subjects amid fears they would undermine the domestic version.
According to data published by the University of Cambridge International Examinations, which offers the qualifications, increasing numbers are offering the IGCSE instead of the traditional exam, with English, history and biology particularly popular. Four hundred state schools now teach IGCSEs compared with 97 in 2010 and 220 last year.
Some 500 public schools are also using the exams, up from 302 two years ago and 350 in 2011. Overall, schools made 50,000 IGCSE entries this year, the exam board said.
Peter Monteath, UK schools manager for CIE, said the structure of IGCSEs, which means pupils sit exams at the end, rather than throughout the course, is popular. ‘The feedback we are getting from schools is that they like the flexibility of these syllabuses, which gives teachers more scope to explore different topics with students,’ he said. ‘Their linear structure also gives students space and time to study topics in depth.’
The Department for Education said it was excellent news that schools were taking advantage of new freedoms and giving pupils the chance to leave school with the same set of qualifications as their peers at top private schools.
Government sources said the figures justified Mr Gove’s plans to replace GCSEs with a tougher, O-level qualification – which are being resisted by the Liberal Democrats.
‘Employers and universities are desperate for the exam system to be fixed,’ said one source. ‘GCSEs and A-levels are not preparing pupils for work or further study. That is why we are restoring universities’ role in A-levels and why we are fixing the broken GCSE system.
‘Those complaining should spend a day in Oxford or Cambridge to understand the effects of the disastrous devaluation of exams over 20 years.’
Mr Gove, in an interview with the Catholic Herald newspaper, said he was passionate about reforming education because ‘earned success is the route to happiness’.
‘People say I want children to learn by rote. I don’t. I want them to learn by heart,’ he added. ‘Think of musical scales. It’s only when you really know your scales backwards, when they are ingrained, that you are able to be creative….. and to understand music.’
Mr Gove said he was unapologetic about his focus on discipline, rigour, standards and foreign languages. ‘There are people out there who are victims of an invincible prejudice, who believe that teaching, for example, classical languages is ipso facto for the elite,’ he added.
‘But the synapses connect in a different way when you learn a foreign language. The mind is framed to assess knowledge.
‘I simply want young people to be exposed to the very best that has been thought and written. ‘There’s no reason why children should be denied the opportunity to understand history, to discover the story of those who made them, on the basis that it is assumed they are incapable of appreciating it.’
Urban Wind turbines in Britain drive bats bats
SMALL wind turbines can halve bat activity in the immediate vicinity of properties, according to new research.
Academics from Stirling University looked at the small wind turbines, which are becoming an increasingly popular means of power generation at individual homes.
The research, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, involved halting microturbine movement at 20 sites across the UK and examining the effect on bird and bat activity.
The results revealed bird activity was not significantly affected but bat activity was 54% lower in close proximity to operating turbines compared to those which were stopped.
Dr Kirsty Park, senior lecturer in Ecology at Stirling who led the research team, said: “Reducing our carbon footprint is important, but we also need to understand the implications of renewable energy technologies for wildlife conservation.
“Based on our results, we recommend turbines are sited at least 20 metres away from potentially valuable bat habitat.”
The research, to be published in the American journal PLoS ONE, was conducted by Dr Jeroen Minderman from the University’s School of Natural Sciences.
Mr Minderman said: “Previous studies have shown birds and bats can be killed by colliding with large turbine blades or wildlife may avoid the surrounding environment, leading to effective habitat loss. “To date, studies have focused solely on large-scale wind farms.”