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We are victimised, say whistleblowing Indian doctors in UK

Several Indian doctors working in the National Health Service (NHS) who raised concerns about patient safety and unethical practices say they are victimised.

world Updated: Feb 17, 2016 20:39 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Narinder Kapur, a consultant clinical psychologist at Cambridge when he was dismissed after complaining about using unqualified staff in the neurosciences clinic, said he was disappointed the Indian government has not taken up the issue with Britain.
Narinder Kapur, a consultant clinical psychologist at Cambridge when he was dismissed after complaining about using unqualified staff in the neurosciences clinic, said he was disappointed the Indian government has not taken up the issue with Britain.(HT Photo)

Several Indian doctors working in the National Health Service (NHS) who raised concerns about patient safety and unethical practices say they are victimised, often resulting in their careers being terminated, besides facing considerable trauma and economic hardship.

Their experience was highlighted in the case of cardiologist Raj Mattu, 56, who was sacked after he raised concerns about patient safety at Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry. He was even accused of being a sexual pervert, among other charges, but was cleared and awarded damages last week.

Mattu, who is among several Indian doctors (who either trained in India or are of Indian origin and trained in the UK) to face the wrath of hospital managers, told Hindustan Times: “The nasty experiences we have endured are significantly more common amongst doctors descended from the Indian subcontinent.

“All the data has consistently demonstrated this, but there is yet to be any actions formulated to address this problem by those in authority in the NHS,” he said. His hospital reportedly spent £10 million to fight the case against him.

Awarded £1.2 million in damages but facing a legal bill of £1.4 million, Mattu said the managers in his former hospital “have been allowed to unlawfully end my job, rob me of my career and destroy my livelihood, and above all damage our lives”.

Ramesh Mehta, president of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (Bapio), said the organisation is setting up a new body to help whistleblowing Indian doctors who face victimisation and worse from managers.

Ten Indian doctors have been trained to mediate between whistleblowing doctors and hospital managements that “panic” when details come out, he told Hindustan Times.

Mehta said the vast majority of doctors in the NHS who trained in India – 25,038 – were valued and appreciated for their work, though there is a growing number of Indian doctors who continue to face discrimination and unfair punishment.

Narinder Kapur, a consultant clinical psychologist at Cambridge when he was dismissed after complaining about using unqualified staff in the neurosciences clinic, said he was disappointed the Indian government has not taken up the issue with Britain, despite petitions.

“We are suffering, our families in India are suffering. We asked the Indian high commission that Prime Minister Narendra Modi raise this issue when he was here in November, but he did not do so,” he said.

NHS doctors who face complaints face fitness-to-practice (FTP) hearings of the General Medical Council. Figures show doctors qualifying in India and other non-EU countries are disproportionately represented in such hearings.

Mehta said FTP hearings are humiliating and lead to considerable trauma – over 100 doctors facing such hearings have committed suicide between 2005 and 2013; they reportedly include some Indians.

“There is a stark contrast in the way Indian and white doctors are treated for the same offence. There is a club culture among white managers and white doctors. As an organisation we are working for equal treatment for all,” Mehta said.

Robert Francis, who submitted a report on whistleblowing in the NHS in 2015, said: “Repeatedly we hear of unaccountable managers protecting themselves and undertaking biased investigations, character assassination, lengthy suspensions, disciplinary hearings which resemble kangaroo courts, and ultimately dismissal of staff who previously had exemplary work records.”

Some senior Indian-origin doctors victimised in recent years

# Raj Mattu

# Malhar Soni

# Narinder Kapur

# Patrick Bose

# Madan Samuel

# Shiban Ahmed

# Sarina Saiger

# Vijan Jadhav

# Sharmila Chowdhury

(Source: Narinder Kapur, University College London)