After a very long and incredibly stressful three and a half years which has seen the derailing of his career, Dr Chris Day has finally won a landmark legal battle. Thanks to the tireless efforts of this doctor and his legal team, Health Education England (HEE) have now been forced to concede that 54,000 junior doctors will have whistle-blowing protection. His struggle has attracted mass support. Thousands of doctors and campaigners from all over Britain have offered Dr Day both their moral and financial backing to get to this point and Keep Our NHS Public would like to offer our sincere congratulations to Chris on his victory.
In January 2014 Dr Chris Day was working overnight in the Intensive Care Unit at Queen Elizabeth hospital in Woolwich, South East London when two locum doctors failed to turn up for their shift. This led to Chris being responsible for 15 ICU beds in addition to needing to cover 4 other wards. Dr Day quite rightly reported his concerns over dangerous staffing levels to managers.
However, due to him highlighting these unsafe rota gaps, Dr Day said HEE questioned his performance and took away his training number meaning he struggled to find permanent employment. He has had to exist doing locum work since that time. When Dr Day attempted to access an employment tribunal regarding the matter they ruled that junior doctors are not covered by tribunals because they only have one-year contracts renewed every year.
Our junior doctors are unfairly prejudiced in an environment that is already very difficult to work in and they deserve much more legislative support. It is small wonder there is a recruitment and retention crisis when this government has made the working environment ripe for dangerous situations and mistakes to occur. Staff in our NHS should not need to have the additional worry that when issues are brought to managers’ attention, the clinician on the front line would ultimately be the one who pays.
A statement by Dr Day’s solicitors Tim Johnson Law said:
Despite the damage to his career over this period Chris Day has shown enormous courage in persisting with his campaign to establish statutory protection for all junior doctors. Like many whistleblowers Chris has faced widespread criticism from established interests. He has been widely criticised by those who should have supported him. They attempted to convince the medical profession and the public at large that he could not succeed. He has now succeeded. All junior doctors owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.
For all his rhetoric about the importance of patient safety, Jeremy Hunt was not supportive of Chris Day’s very legitimate concerns. Dr Day said:
At first Hunt replied promising to review the case. But he then changed his position and proceeded to deny all legal responsibility for my whistle-blowing case
Health Education England (HEE) has been ordered to pay £55,000 to Dr Day in costs and been forced to concede that junior doctors are employees of their organisation. In a statement a spokesperson for Health Education England said:
The issue revolved around whether postgraduate trainees should be counted as HEE “workers”, and therefore protected by whistleblowing law …. The Court of Appeal introduced a new dimension by asking the Tribunal to consider whether a second employer was possible. Having never wished to do anything other than facilitate whistleblowing for doctors in training, HEE is happy to be considered as a second employer for these purposes if it removes a potential barrier for junior doctors raising concerns. That is why we did not contest this tribunal.
Overall HEE has spent £200,000 of taxpayer’s money on essentially avoid its responsibility and trying to cover up for a lack of patient safety. Wider questions must be asked as to what motives HEE have for trying to silence hardworking, professional and competent members of staff who only have the best interests of patients and colleagues at heart. The actions of HEE, which comes under the Government’s Department of Health & Social Care, should be subject to scrutiny going forward.
There will be a further hearing in the autumn on the substance of Chris Day’s claims concerning whether or not HEE caused him to lose his job as a result of their actions.
Dr Chris Day Twitter Account
For more information on whistleblowing in the NHS please see our resource cabinet.