Surgeon sexually harassed two trainee doctors, tribunal is told

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A top surgeon was sacked by Oxford University Hospitals Trust after he sexually
harassed two trainee doctors, a tribunal judge heard this week.

The middle-aged consultant made sexual advances on the pair and begged them to join him at his house after work, the hearing was told.

The young doctors were allegedly told they would receive unfavourable write-ups in their progress reports if they did not accede to his demands.

However, the well-paid consultant – who cannot be named for legal reasons – claims the allegations were trumped up against him as part of a cost-cutting drive at Oxford University Hospitals Trust (OUHT) and is suing his former employers for unfair dismissal.

Anne Thomson, a senior doctor at OUHT, was tasked with investigating the harassment claims made by two trainee doctors in the consultant’s department.

She told an employment tribunal on Tuesday that she had found the consultant guilty of gross misconduct and instructed his instant dismissal following a disciplinary hearing.

“I believe the claimant had sought to engage in inappropriate conversations of a personal nature with (the doctors) and had tried to persuade them to meet privately with him.

“Moreover, he had, I believed, told them both to keep these matters between them secret,” Dr Thomson said.

She added: “Worst of all, the claimant had sought to influence the junior doctors by implying that their careers might be affected if they did not comply with his requests to meet, or would be enhanced if they complied with the requests to meet outside of work hours and at his home.

“As junior doctors, they were in a vulnerable position in re­lation to the claimant and their careers would have been hard won and very dear to them.

“To try to exploit this was wholly wrong.”

Dr Thomson said the doctors, who cannot be named, “felt intimidated by the advances made by the claimant,” and that his conduct had been “unwanted and had caused them anxiety and distress.”

One of the doctors alleged the unmarried surgeon touched her inappropriately on the leg in a failed sexual advance in his office, while the other said he sent “persistent” text messages asking her to come over to his house after work.

Dr Thomson said: “Both doc­tors explained how the claim­ant’s role and in­fluence with the Annual Review of Competence Progression process had been referred to on several occasions and that they had understood that their ARCP would suffer if they did not agree to spend social time with the claimant.”

The ARCP is a formal review used to determine how well a doctor is progressing in training, the tribunal heard.

Dr Thomson said the accused consultant had called one of the doctors “a liar” and claimed both had colluded to destroy his career when he was hauled before the disciplinary hearing.

“In essence, the claimant denied he had behaved in the way alleged by (the doctors) and he said the incidents they described had simply not happened,” said Dr Thomson, a di­rector at the hospital Trust.

She continued: “I ultimately concluded that both (doctors) were credible witnesses.

“I found no evidence to substantiate the claimant’s argument that the junior doctors had colluded with each other.

“I believed (the doctors) and I believed the claimant had behaved in the way they described.

“I found the claimant’s conduct, aside from being intimidating and upsetting, amounted to sexual harassment.”

The consultant was found guilty of gross misconduct and was sacked with immediate effect.

Now, he is suing the NHS Trust for unfair dismissal, breach of contract, racial discrimination, sexual discrimination and loss of wages at Reading Tribunal Centre, Reading.

The consultant claims the allegations were fabricated as part of a cynical move by the Trust managers to force him out of his job amid budget cuts.

However, Dr Thomson said she was unaware of the planned restructuring of his department at the time she sacked him, and pointed out that his dismissal caused “short-term difficulties” at the hospital where he worked.

The three-week tribunal continues before Employment Judge Andrew Gumbiti-Zimuto.

It made an order precluding the naming of the claimant or anything which might identify him for the length of the proceedings.