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Exclusive: Croydon University Hospital hires '£5,000 per day' QC to fight tribunal's damning whistleblower verdict


CROYDON University Hospital has hired a QC who charges between £4,000 and £5,000 a day to help appeal a tribunal's verdict that it sacked a senior doctor for whistleblowing.

Figures obtained by the Advertiser show Croydon Health Services, the trust which runs the hospital, has already spent more than £130,000 on legal fees relating to Dr Kevin Beatt's unfair dismissal claim.

He won his case in October after a judge decided he had been sacked for raising concerns following the death of a patient during a routine operation in 2011, rejecting the hospital's claim he had been guilty of gross misconduct.

The hospital continues to reject the tribunal's damning judgement and has instructed a top QC to work on an appeal alongside the barrister already working on the case, the Advertiser can reveal.

Leading silk Jane McNeill QC, of Old Square Chambers, commands between £50,000 to £60,000 to prepare a case up until the first day of a hearing and between £4,000 to £5,000 per day thereafter. Ian Scott, a junior also from Old Square, represented the trust at the tribunal.

Tony Newman, leader of Croydon Council, has called on the hospital to "take a long hard look" at whether the spending is appropriate.

Gavin Barwell, MP for Croydon Central, said: "I will need to speak to the hospital, but at first sight I think my constituents will question whether, given the undeniable pressure the NHS is under, the hospital should be spending these sums of money on an employment tribunal, particularly when there has been a clear verdict." 

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Croydon Health Services said chief executive John Goulston was unavailable for interview when approached by the Advertiser this week.

Instead it provided a written statement in which it stood by its reasons for sacking Dr Beatt and did not respond to any questions about Ms McNeill or its legal expenditure.

According to figures provided to the Advertiser via a Freedom of Information request, the trust had spent £132,048 on the case as of December 11, including all solicitor and counsel fees since Dr Beatt submitted his claim after being sacked in September 2012.

He had alleged one of his patients, Gerald Storey, had died because a nurse had been suspended without his knowledge, meaning she was unable to help him during the procedure.

After informing the coroner and a senior GP the trust sacked him for gross misconduct, claiming his account was "unsubstantiated" and made to "serve an ulterior motive".

Those claims were rejected by the employment tribunal which found Dr Beatt, 63, raised "genuine" concerns - later substantiated by the coroner - only to be dismissed because he was a whistleblower.

The tribunal's lengthy report was highly critical of senior managers at the hospital, including Mr Goulston and Michael Parker, then the trust's chairman.

It alleged that one of Dr Beatt's colleagues - Dr Asif Qasim - was a bully and that he and another manager had pressured witnesses to change their statements about what had happened on the day of Mr Storey's death.

Speaking to the Advertiser this week, Dr Beatt said the final cost of the legal proceedings will far exceed the £132,048 bill the trust has accrued so far. The hospital should learn whether it has been given leave to appeal - or even go to a full re-hearing - within the week.

Dr Beatt said: "The hospital is spending huge amounts of public money, not to defend the trust or the clinical service, but to defend the reputation of its managers.

"The NHS has this vast budget and there's no accountability for how managers spend it. This couldn't apply in any other business where this amount of money would be at stake."

Cllr Newman said: "Having looked closely at this case, at a time when the NHS is under huge financial pressure, and its A&E is in crisis, I would ask the hospital to take a long hard look at whether spending tens of thousands of pounds, that the NHS does not have, on this issue, is the best use of the hospital's budget."

A Croydon Health Services spokesman said: "It is every employee's responsibility at Croydon Health Services to uphold great care for our patients and we take all concerns raised extremely seriously.

"Dr Beatt was not dismissed for whistleblowing and we stand by our reasons for dismissal. We have investigated his claims thoroughly.

"The trust is appealing the decision of the Employment Tribunal and we will not be commenting further on this matter until these legal proceedings are complete."

Exclusive: Croydon University Hospital hires '£5,000 per day' QC to fight tribunal's damning whistleblower verdict

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