Losing tribunal is another devastating blow, ‘whistleblowing’ doctor says

A consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist who claimed he was sacked for raising whistleblowing concerns about midwifery care at his hospital has described losing his employment tribunal as a “devastating blow”.

Martyn Pitman was dismissed earlier this year from his job at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital (RHCH) in Winchester, where he had worked as a consultant for 20 years.

He told the Southampton tribunal, which concluded earlier this month, that he had been “subjected to brutal retaliatory victimisation” in a claim which alleged he had suffered a detriment due to exercising rights under the Public Interest Disclosure Act.

A tribunal judgment released on Friday said: “It is the unanimous judgment of the tribunal that the claimant’s complaints of detriment on the grounds of whistleblowing, fail and are dismissed.”

Mr Pitman said he now faces “the brutal reality of losing the career I have cherished” and he, his legal team and the British Medical Association will now have to pick through the 75-page judgment before he decides on “appropriate next steps”.

His claim was made against the Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHFT) and its former chief medical officer Dr Lara Alloway.

It related to the whistleblowing disclosures made by Mr Pitman between March 2019 and July 2021, and resulting detriments he claims he was subjected to.

Mr Pitman told the hearing that up to the spring of 2019 morale was deteriorating in the RHCH midwifery team and clinical midwives had “lost confidence” in the senior midwifery management.

Mr Pitman also stated he was elected by the midwives to act as their “spokesperson”, which led to him raising issues with the management.

After the judgment, Mr Pitman said in a statement: “This decision is incredibly disappointing and another devastating blow in what has been a very long and challenging legal dispute with the Hampshire Hospitals Foundation Trust.

“I have dedicated my entire career, particularly my two decades as a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, to the provision of safe, evidence-based and patient-centred care for those individuals who I have had the privilege and responsibility to look after.

“I also very much valued my position of responsibility in being able to support and represent the views and concerns of my clinical midwifery, nursing and healthcare assistant colleagues.

“My decision to whistleblow patient and staff safety concerns at the trust has cost me very dearly, and I am faced with the brutal reality of losing the career I have cherished.”

He said that his unfair dismissal claim is ongoing.

The trust said it was “grateful” the tribunal’s decision had been made in its favour, but also accepted that Mr Pitman had “raised important and valid concerns particularly in relation to impacts around staffing levels on our maternity unit”.

In a statement, the trust said: “He was right to do this – and he was not alone in doing so. We listen to concerns raised and take action. Today, our maternity units are fully recruited for midwives.

“Our issue was never about the concerns raised by Mr Pitman, but about concerns raised by others of disruptive behaviour and then a breakdown in working relationships.

“These factors are damaging in any workplace, but in a healthcare setting, which is by its nature an intense and pressurised environment, their destabilising effect is even more serious.”

The trust said “our staff are actively encouraged to speak up candidly and free of any concern about a perceived risk to their role – this was true in 2019, it is true today, and it will always be a guiding principle for Hampshire Hospitals”.

It  said that patients are best served by teams that “work together effectively” and where this cannot be achieved, “we are obliged to investigate and take appropriate action”.

The statement adds: “We are grateful to the tribunal for recognising that we acted on the concerns we received, and we take on board their view that action should have been taken sooner.

“It is important we continually demonstrate to staff that our hospitals are fair and respectful places to work, and that HHFT is a good employer.

“This way we can retain great people, attract new talent, and serve our patients in the best way possible.”