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March 11, 2015

Private Eye Issue 1386
Filed under: Private Eye — Dr. Phil @ 5:10 pm

Blow the whistle if you Dare

Dr Hayley Dare, a highly regarded NHS clinical psychologist, has been raising concerns for some years in the country’s biggest mental health trust, West London Mental Health NHS Trust (WLMHT). She spoke out about poor patient care and staff welfare. For example, in August 2012, the Trust’s Forensic Director closed a ward on the Women’s mental health unit without warning. This led to a 72-year-old woman having to sleep in a windowless, isolated padded room because there was no normal bed for her; she died a fortnight later. The Trust’s investigation into Dr Dare’s allegations was never published but Dr Dare’s concerns were subsequently upheld in court.

Dr Dare raised her concerns through the appropriate channels but was subjected to a campaign of bullying from senior management. This included a poison-pen letter threatening her and her children and accusations about her mental health. Dr Dare has an unblemished 20-year career in the NHS. As a specialist in women’s forensic care, she provided therapy to severely psychologically unwell women with long histories of abuse who had become a danger to themselves and to others.

Following an unexpected reorganisation, Dr. Dare’s post was put at risk of redundancy. Dare took the Trust to an Employment Tribunal. In December 2014, but she lost this case because it was considered that she had not acted in ‘good faith’, a now redundant legal tactic used to dismiss whistle blowing cases in Court. The law has now changed to focus on the content of the concerns raised, and how the whistle-blower is treated after raising them. Alas the change came too late for Dare. Dr Dare raised concerns through management for almost 2 years before she formally blew the whistle. 18 months after initially raising concerns, she was taken aside by a senior manager who threatened to cut her job and told her to stop putting her concerns in writing. This threat to her job was used to argue that she had not acted in ‘good faith’.

In December, the CQC issued a highly critical report of the trust, placing it at ‘elevated risk’ for having more than four times the number of complaints expected. It placed six further aspects of its work as at risk, including deaths of patients detained under the Mental Health Act. Out of 51 mental health trusts, it has the worst record for staff experiencing violence both from patients and colleagues, according to official NHS staff surveys in 2012 and 2013. Thirty per cent of staff experienced harassment, bullying or abuse from other members of staff in 2013 and just over one in four (26 per cent) experienced discrimination. Almost one in 10 (8 per cent) employees experienced physical violence from colleagues.

Dare’s tribunal heard how WLMHT chief executive Steve Shrubb was secretly recorded describing Dr Dare as a “very, very disturbed woman” and that she reminded him “of my first wife”. He added “I’m buggered if she thinks she’s going to screw me for a load of money and I’m buggered if I’m going to spend money sticking her in another trust.” Mr Shrubb added that if she was allowed to resume work at the trust in a different directorate, he would “give it three months before she then fingers someone else as being a bully… I’ll put money on it”. Shrubb alleged Dr Dare had had an affair with another senior member of staff, who was also “really problematic”. Director of Workforce Rachael Moench describer Dare as “so manipulative… she’s a victim through and through”.

In fact, Dr Dare is one of the most genuine and committed clinicians and whistle-blowers MD has had the privilege of interviewing. Her loss shows how employment tribunals are such dangerous places for whistle blowers to seek justice. You can be right, lose your job and face bankruptcy. After losing her case, the trust sent Dr Dare an aggressive demand for £93,500 costs on a Friday night (before and Independent on Sunday story), although legally it should have said it would be subject to an affordability assessment. Would any other worker at WLMHT now dare to do as Dr Dare did?