The whistleblower Raj Mattu, the cardiologist who, in 2001, exposed serious failings at Walsgrave hospital in Coventry, is expecting to be told how much compensation he will receive after being subjected to vitriolic treatment by the hospital Trust over nearly a decade.
Mattu raised concerns over shortcomings in equipment maintenance, overcrowding, allocation of resources and internal processes; a CQC report into the unit in 2001, not long after Mattu's arrival, found that the hospital held the worst patient safety record of any Trust, with a startling excess death rate of 60%. Mattu appeared on BBC Radio 4, claiming that at least two patients had died unnecessarily because of overcrowded wards and that management had turned a blind eye.
Mattu faced a deluge of around 200 complaints about him to the General Medical Council and was suspended in 2002. While all the allegations were shown to be unfounded, the toll of the proceedings was immense and, in 2010, with his physical and mental health deteriorating, he was dismissed by the Trust.
Mattu's is the longest-running case of its kind, and it is estimated that the NHS has spent over £6 million to date fighting the case. He has been fighting his case in the employment tribunal, and his compensation award is likely to be substantial.
A tribunal hearing in April 2014 heard evidence that the Trust's managers had effectively crushed Mattu, systematically destroying his career. The Trust's Chief Executive, David Laughton, drew particular comment for his part in stifling Mattu's concerns, and faces separate allegations of overseeing a campaign to threaten another whistleblower, Sandra Hayes Kirkbright, who had claimed that the Trust was manipulating medical records.
Whistleblowing and patient safety
The resourcing issues raised by Mattu are still very relevant today; at Trusts across the country, NHS staff are struggling to provide safe care in the context of inadequate staffing and equipment and a distinct lack of support. The culture of silence around these failings remains strong and, 13 years on from Mattu's disclosures, the NHS is by no means a safe place for a whistleblower.