BMA says dismissal of consultant for whistleblowing is unacceptable and further highlights need for cultural and legal reform within NHS

BMA press release. 

Location: England
Published: Thursday 16 November 2023
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The BMA is calling for more to be done to protect doctors who raise concerns over patient safety as the Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust upheld a decision to dismiss Mr Martyn Pitman who spoke out about patient safety fears.
Mr Pitman, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist who has worked for 20 years at the Hampshire Hospitals Trust has described the decision to uphold his dismissal as ‘crushing’ and fears the decision could prevent other doctors from speaking up about concerns in the future.

The BMA and Mr Pitman’s legal team will now be considering next steps whilst continuing with preparations for an ongoing whistleblowing claim in the Employment Tribunal later this year.
Mr Martyn Pitman said:
“As an experienced, skilled and dedicated doctor, who has had the privilege of caring for countless patients over the past 30 years, it is devastating to realise that my dismissal from the Trust signals the end of my cherished career. Throughout my 20 years of being a consultant at the Hampshire Hospitals Trust I have made so many sacrifices to the benefit of both the Trust and the patients that I have been clinically responsible for – during a career dedicated to provision of safe, patient-focused and evidence-based care.

“The decision to uphold my dismissal is crushing. It also poses a potential direct threat to patient and staff safety by setting a very worrying precedent for other doctors and members of staff who may now be too afraid to speak out when they have legitimate concern or believe something is wrong, for fear of the consequences.

“The last four years have been incredibly difficult, causing significant stress and damage to myself and my family and it is not yet over. I will now be considering next steps with my legal team and the BMA, whilst continuing with preparations for an ongoing whistleblowing claim in the Employment Tribunal later this year. I wish to express my sincere thanks to all those who have been and continue to be supportive throughout this immensely challenging period.”

BMA chair Professor Phil Banfield said:

“It is unacceptable that a doctor cannot raise concerns about the safe care of their patients or of hospital procedures without the very real possibility they will lose their job and suffer unimaginable stress across often long and drawn-out legal processes. Decisions like the one in the case of Mr Martyn Pitman rarely result in improvements to patient care and do even less to encourage other doctors or healthcare staff from speaking up at a time when it is crucial that someone does. This is not to mention the profound and often devastating impact they have on a doctor’s personal and working life and the knock-on impact on their family.

“Unfortunately, Mr Pitman’s case is not isolated and highlights a very worrying culture in our NHS – a culture of punishing those who dare to speak out about failings in patient safety. This needs to change and the BMA will continue to be at the forefront of supporting doctors like Mr Pitman and campaigning for cultural and legal reform.”

Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.