Whistleblowing paediatrician Dr David Drew had an unblemished career for 37 years, the last 18 in Walsall, until he was sacked in December 2010 for “gross misconduct and insubordination.” Dr Drew had been medical lead for the paediatric department at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust (WHNT) for 7 years until April 2008. From October 2008 to April 2009, he raised numerous concerns about child protection, heating failures, cold babies, understaffing and bullying. He was largely ignored.
In April 2009 following a verbal complaint by the Head Nurse, Drew was excluded for 6 weeks. A National Clinical Assessment Service (NCAS) report found that the Medical Director had reported Drew as obstructive, unmanageable, possibly psychotic and guilty of leaking details of a murdered child to the press. He said Drew was a danger to both staff and patients. He sent Drew an urgent psychiatric appointment and wrote that he was excluding Drew ‘on NCAS advice’. This was untrue. 6 weeks later, the MD asked Drew to go back to work.
An internal investigation concluded “no case to answer” and after a period of illness requiring high dose steroids for 4 weeks Drew returned. In October 2009 he wrote to the CEO registering further concerns about the department including bullying. He also registered a grievance against the MD for wrongful exclusion. He met the trust chair with the BMA and he agreed to an Independent Review of Drew’s grievance and of relationships in the department.
A Review Panel was commissioned by recommendation of the Royal College of Paediatrics and reported on 26 March 2010. It found that, from October 2008, the paediatric department had been run by three managers ‘lacking in paediatric knowledge, managerially aggressive and failing to engage front line clinical staff.’ The trust was instructed not to allow two of them to work in the department again. Drew was not allowed to see the trust’s statement. Witnesses were interviewed but no statements were taken. Hand written notes of interviews were made but all records of these were subsequently destroyed.
The CEO and Drew had the only 2 copies of the report. It described corporate failure to manage paediatrics at every level. The Board, Executive, Managers and clinicians, including Drew, were criticised. The Board (as of 8/4/11) was not allowed to see the unabridged version on the grounds of “confidentiality”. The Hospital Consultant body asked to see the report but were not allowed to. The Medical Director (severely criticised in the report) resigned shortly afterwards but is alleged – in minutes of a Consultant meeting 30 September 2010 – to have given an inaccurate account of the Review to middle managers.
In March 2011 the CEO wrote demanding that Drew accept the full report without reservation or clarification. Drew asked for a meeting but instead received an appointment for a disciplinary hearing. This was cancelled at BMA insistence as it was in breach of trust policy. In June 2010 Drew met the CEO with the BMA and was offered a package worth £242,000 to leave immediately. Drew was required to sign a gagging clause. He replied in writing that this was a bribe which he could not accept.
Disciplinary proceedings were then started culminating in a 2 day hearing up against an aggressive WHNT solicitor. The BMA would not provide legal representatives for internal hearings and Drew could not afford to pay one. Drew was sacked and his subsequent appeal, on April 8 2011, failed. He is taking the Trust to an employment tribunal but the BMA has declined to represent him. The Trust will have very expensive, publically funded, legal representation. WHNT was shown all these allegations but declined to comment prior to the tribunal.