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Doctor loses tribunal after raising safety concerns

Pitman's former employers said he had not been dismissed for whistleblowing, but for disruptive behaviour

A consultant obstetrician who was dismissed after raising safety concerns has lost his claim of retaliatory victimisation.

Martyn Pitman worked at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester, which is operated by the Hampshire Hospitals Foundation Trust (HHFT), for 20 years.

Read more: How to identify whistleblowing and protected disclosures

He was dismissed earlier this year after raising concerns about patient choice, prioritising natural birth over caesareans and low staffing levels.

He told the tribunal he was elected as a spokesperson by his midwifery colleagues, after morale deteriorated and concerns were shared.

He claimed that he had been victimised after raising the concerns.

However, the HHFT claimed he had been dismissed for disruptive behaviour and a breakdown in working relationships.

In a statement, Pitman said the tribunal’s decision was "incredibly disappointing".

He said: "I [...] very much valued my position of responsibility in being able to support and represent the views and concerns of my clinical midwifery, nursing and healthcare assistant colleagues.

“My decision to whistleblow patient and staff safety concerns at the Trust has cost me very dearly and I am faced with the brutal reality of losing the career I have cherished.”

An HHFT spokesperson said Pitman’s concerns have been addressed but others reported him for disruptive behaviour.

The spokesperson said: “Mr Pitman raised important and valid concerns particularly in relation to impacts around staffing levels on our maternity unit.

"He was right to do this and he was not alone in doing so. We listen to concerns raised and take action. Today, our maternity units are fully recruited for midwives.

“Our issue was never about the concerns raised by Mr Pitman, but about concerns raised by others of disruptive behaviour and then a breakdown in working relationships. These factors are damaging in any workplace, but in a healthcare setting, which is by its nature an intense and pressurised environment, their destabilising effect is even more serious.”

Read more: UK employers slack on whistleblowing training

Pitman's case has garnered support online, with almost 2,000 people joining a Facebook group backing to him.

Nicholas Le Riche, partner at BDB Pitmans, said employers should ensure whistleblowers are listened to and are not disadvantaged for raising complaints.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “Employers should treat the complaint seriously and particularly follow any whistleblowing policy that is in place. For employee relations purposes, it will be important to show that the employee’s complaint is investigated thoroughly, even if it isn’t ultimately upheld.

“Most fundamentally of all, employers should ensure that employees are not victimised as a result of raising their complaint, such as suffering bullying and harassment or any other detriment at work.”

The case highlights the importance of impartial reporting systems, according to Chancelle Blakey, reporting expert at whistleblowing hotline, Safecall.

She told HR magazine: “Ensuring that individuals feel safe and supported when coming forward with information is paramount, and this can only be achieved through a genuine commitment to maintaining the integrity and impartiality of these systems.

"By doing so, we create an environment that encourages transparency and accountability, which are essential in upholding the highest standards of conduct and ethics in any organisation.”