NHS whistleblower wins dismissal case against England’s health regulator

Shyam Kumar was unfairly sacked by CQC after raising patient safety concerns, Manchester tribunal finds

A hospital inspector who was sacked by the health regulator after raising concerns about patient safety, inadequate inspections and bullying, has won an employment tribunal against his dismissal.

Manchester employment tribunal found that the orthopaedic surgeon Shyam Kumar was unfairly sacked as a part-time special adviser by the Care Quality Commission.

It found that the CQC failed to accept his whistleblowing was valid and tried to discredit him.

Kumar, who also worked at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS foundation trust, raised concerns about clinical negligence, manipulated waiting lists and significant patient harm at the trust. He warned the CQC that the trust wanted to bury concerns “under the carpet”.

He later complained about the inadequacy of CQC inspections into the trust and said the regulator was unwilling to examine high infection rates and instances of bullying and harassment of doctors.

Kumar was so frustrated that his concerns were being ignored that he threatened to stop taking part in inspections, the tribunal heard.

He was dismissed by the CQC in 2019 when senior figures at the regulator accused him of using his position to “intimidate colleagues”, according to emails disclosed to the tribunal.

The regulator also sought to discredit him by asking his trust for details of any disciplinary action against him.

The tribunal noted that Kumar had not been subject to any such action. It said: “There were suggestions of misconduct by the claimant … where no evidence of this existed.”

BBC News reported him saying: “The whole energy of a few individuals in the CQC was spent on gunning me down rather than focusing on improvement to patient safety and exerting the regulatory duties.”

During one of the hearings he said: “I was perceived as a troublemaker within the CQC, or as a thorn in their side.”

The tribunal concluded that Kumar was raising legitimate concerns about patient safety and that these led to his sacking. It said: “It is very clear that the emails and concerns raised by the claimant in the form of protected disclosures had a material influence on the decision to disengage him.”

Kumar was awarded £23,000 for injury to his feelings.

The surgeon said he was relieved about the verdict, adding: “From a personal point of view, I feel vindicated.”

The CQC said: “We accept the tribunal findings and have learned from this case. We have already improved many of our processes and will continue to review these based on the findings to ensure we make any further necessary changes.”