The BMA has supported a former Chief Medical Director, who lost her job after speaking out about the blocking of Covid 19 advice by a Chief Executive, to win her case at an employment tribunal.
The hearing, which began in January of this year, heard how Dr Rosalind Ranson was unfairly dismissed from her role as Chief Medical Director on the Isle of Man after she had urged the Manx Government to depart from Public Health England advice in the early stages of the pandemic in 2020 – which eventually it did. However, Dr Ranson was victimised and dismissed after she raised a number of serious concerns, which included whether the Chief Executive, who was not medically qualified, was passing on her advice to Ministers. Dr Ranson had also raised serious concerns about patient safety and governance matters.
The Employment Tribunal hearing, which began in January of this year, heard how Dr Ranson was marginalised, bullied and unfairly dismissed from her role as Chief Medical Director on the island. Dr Ranson became the Chief Medical Director in January 2020, moving to the Isle of Man to oversee a reorganisation of health services and subsequently to provide expert medical advice and guidance on how the health system should respond to the pandemic.
However in March 2020 it became apparent that Dr Ranson and her team's expert advice was not being heeded. The island's pandemic strategy of following Public Health England was rejected by the island's doctors. Dr Ranson's role was to get their voices heard. After some delay the Government followed Dr Ranson's medical advice and implemented the recommendations around quarantine and controls at the port. When the island's new healthcare service, Manx Care, was created in April 2021, Dr Ranson fully expected to transfer to it as Chief Medical Director. Instead, she was moved sideways into what the judgment called 'an empty shell role' still within the Department of Health and Social Care.
The Tribunal concluded that because Dr Ranson had 'blown the whistle,' speaking out about her concerns, she was first sidelined and eventually, unfairly dismissed. It also considered the praise of Dr Ranson by her colleagues acknowledging she was held in high esteem and found that the Chief Executive's criticisms of Dr Ranson were 'ludicrous and unjustifiable'.
Dr Ranson, now unemployed, said: "The past two years have seen the highest but also the lowest parts of my career. The highest because eventually the Manx Government and healthcare leaders did heed my advice and the team I led and Covid-19 was, for most of 2020, eradicated on the island, allowing the public to live a life free of restrictions. However, if my advice had been heeded earlier, more lives would have been saved. As a doctor, my duty is to put patients and public first and this was made almost impossible by the campaign that was waged to make my work life untenable, to undermine my credibility and professionalism and finally force me out of a role I had been so looking forward to making a success.
"The financial and wellbeing support from the BMA has been absolutely crucial to me and to this case. Standing up as a whistleblower is extremely difficult, even when you know it's the right thing to do. There were times when it felt a very lonely place to be as efforts to make my work life as unbearable as possible gathered momentum and I can wholeheartedly understand why many doctors, in similar positions, may feel they simply cannot fight for justice. But I knew what I had to say was right and I was doing it in the interests of the patients and wider public on the island. The Tribunal's decision isn't just a victory for me, it is also a victory for the principle of whistleblowing and for doctors having the freedom and independence to speak the truth."
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA Chair of Council said: "It is shameful and unacceptable that doctors who speak out about patient safety concerns can suffer victimisation and detriment for their commitment to patient care. This also dissuades others from feeling able to speak up and threatens the ability for the NHS to become a safer health service. Having personally communicated with Dr Ranson about the unwarranted attack and disadvantage she suffered, I am pleased that the BMA supported her successfully and that justice has been delivered. We have a culture in our health service that leaves many doctors afraid to speak the truth in the interest of patients and the population; this needs to reform so that doctors are supported and have confidence to speak out without fear of recrimination."
Dr Penelope Toff, the chair of the BMA’s Public Health Medicine Committee, said: "In light of many Public Health professionals' experience in the pandemic and since Public Health was moved out of the NHS in 2013, this Tribunal outcome further emphasises the importance of medical experts having professional autonomy and confidence to speak out, publish, collaborate and advocate for the good of the population, regardless of where they are employed. Those in positions of power – employers and elected representatives – should work together - with public health specialists and clinicians for the benefit of the population's health and wellbeing. Decisions on health and social care policy - even in emergencies - should wherever possible, be evidence-based and informed by the advice of both those with on-the-ground public health expertise and senior clinicians, free from undue influence of political, commercial and personal vested interests."
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.