A cardiologist won a landmark legal victory yesterday in the most expensive and longest-running whistleblowing case in the history of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS). The NHS spent nine years and £6 million in taxpayer money pursuing Dr Raj Mattu, who warned of poor quality care at a hospital in Coventry.
Dr Mattu had originally warned that patients were dying due to cost-cutting measures at Walsgrave Hospital. The Guardian says he criticised practices such as the ‘five-in-four’ policy where an extra bed was squeezed into a bay intended for just four beds in order to cut costs, and cited two cases where patients had died due to overcrowding.
The local NHS Trust originally suspended him for eight years before finally sacking him. They hired private investigators to try to discredit him, spending £6 million in legal costs pursuing the case.
Colleagues said that Dr Mattu had been “hounded mercilessly” by hospital managers during the process.
Yesterday, however, an employment tribunal ruled that Dr Mattu had been unfairly dismissed and was entitled to compensation. It vindicated the cardiologist, saying: “The claimant did not cause or contribute to his dismissal.”
The Telegraph says that Dr Mattu could now be entitled to damages of up to £10 million.
Dr Mattu’s lawyer said he had been “vilified, bullied and harassed out of a job he loved.”
He said after the verdict: “This has been a David v Goliath legal battle, which I am delighted to have won for my client.”
“The tribunal’s findings – that Dr Mattu was a whistleblower and was unfairly dismissed – completely vindicate him. Dr Mattu was a fantastic cardiologist and it was tragic that his pursuit of safety and the highest standards in care led to him being vilified, bullied and harassed out of a job he loved.”
“This case has brought to light the appalling way whistleblowers are still being treated and raises important and wider issues that should be addressed.”
Charlotte Leslie, a Conservative member of the Commons Health Committee said: “This shows just how far the NHS was prepared to go, spending millions attempting to protect its reputation by taking on someone who was simply fighting for good patient care.”
She added: “This is a pattern, a dystopian world in which the priority is to hush up inconvenient truths and pursue sinister and aggressive policies to destroy those who speak out.”