A&E Doctor Unfairly Sacked after Sending Messages to Ex-Patient

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A&E Doctor Unfairly Sacked after Sending Messages to Ex-Patient
Photo Credits - Piron Guillaume via Unsplash

An employment tribunal has recently ruled that an A&E doctor was unfairly sacked after being suspended for six years. The doctor was initially suspended following an allegation of inappropriate communication with a vulnerable patient. However, after the ruling, the NHS has been slammed for wasting time and money, as the doctor received approximately £1 million in wages during his suspension.

Our article examines the NHS’ shortcomings in this case and the judge’s ruling at the employment tribunal. To receive future employment law updates, sign up for our newsletter now!

NHS Forth Valley A&E Doctor Claims He’s Been Unfairly Sacked

Richard MacCallum worked as an A&E doctor at the NHS Forth Valley Royal Hospital from 1 May 2004 until 5 June 2023. On 16 November 2016, the hospital received a complaint from the children of one of the doctor’s patients. They claimed that he had initiated an inappropriate sexual relationship with their mother.

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Following an investigation with HR, the hospital learned he had corresponded with the patient and visited her home. Since this had transpired without a work-related or other legitimate reason, he was suspended on full pay on 22 November.

MacCallum denied the sexual allegations, but a fitness to practice hearing in 2019 found his inappropriate communication constituted serious misconduct. Despite ruling that he was still fit to practice, the panel decided that the doctor should remain suspended in March 2020.

Delays caused by the pandemic and the doctor’s declining health further postponed decisions regarding his suspension. He attributed his poor health to the ongoing delays. Yet, after much deliberation, the hospital ultimately opted to terminate his employment due to gross misconduct in 2023.

Consequently, the doctor appealed his dismissal on 19 January 2024, claiming he had been unfairly sacked, but this proved unsuccessful. As such, he proceeded with his unfair dismissal claim through an employment tribunal.

Unfair Dismissal Claim Succeeds but is Reduced

Following the proceedings, the tribunal agreed that Richard MacCallum had been unfairly sacked. Judge Whitcombe stated, “I think it is sufficient to say that all reasonable health boards would have completed [proceedings] before the end of…2017”. He noted how the process had well surpassed the hospital’s 32-week maximum target. 

In addition, the tribunal highlighted the consequences of the unwarranted delays. They outlined how the significant time since the events had impacted the cogency of his evidence. Furthermore, they understood how the circumstances had placed substantial stress on the doctor, affecting his willingness to relive it.

After considering the doctor’s conduct, the tribunal concluded that a reasonable employer would have imposed a disciplinary sanction instead of dismissing him for gross misconduct. As such, his unfair dismissal claim succeeded, and he is now waiting for compensation to be awarded.

A&E doctor suspended for six years unfairly sacked. ET ruled delay and termination amounted to unfair dismissal. Despite this, they reduced his future award by 15% due to inappropriately messaging an ex-patient.

Despite this, it wasn’t a complete victory for the A&E doctor. In the end, the tribunal decided to reduce his eventual compensation by 15% due to contributory fault. They explained that whilst he was unfairly sacked, his correspondence with the patient breached expected professional boundaries.

Have you been Unfairly Sacked?

If an employee is dismissed without their employer providing a valid reason or following a fair process, they could’ve been unfairly sacked. In such circumstances, they will likely be aggrieved and understandably seek a resolution. If the employee has unsuccessfully attempted to resolve the matter internally through an informal and formal process, they may not know what to do next.

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At this stage, if eligible, the employee could pursue an unfair dismissal claim through an employment tribunal. Should they succeed, they could be reinstated or, more commonly, awarded compensation for their troubles.

If an employee believes they have been dismissed unfairly and wants expert advice, contact Redmans Solicitors now. They are employment law specialists and could discuss your case with you before advising on your possible next steps.

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