Hospital disciplinary hearing was defective

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A tribunal judge has slammed an Oxford University Hospitals Trust investigation which led to the wrongful dismissal of a top surgeon.

Following a hearing at Reading Tribunals Court last month, Judge Gumbiti Zimuto ruled last week the surgeon should not have been sacked and dismissed allegations he had sexually harassed two junior doctors.

The doctors, who can be named only as Dr X and Dr Y, alleged the surgeon, who was also their tutor for their six- month placement as surgical trainees, had behaved inappropriately towards them.

Dr Y alleged he had touched her leg at a meeting and offered to arrange for her boyfriend to leave the country, and Dr X said he had invited her to his flat for dinner and made persistent phone calls.

However Judge Zimuto’s report exposed serious flaws in the hospital’s investigation, disciplinary hearing and the surgeon’s appeal against its decision to sack him.

Mr Zimuto said the doctor who led the investigation was not trained to carry out such inquiries and it was the first time he had done so.

He said the report on the investigation was prepared prematurely while further investigations were still required stating the doctor in charge ‘did not carry out any further investigations because he did not have the time to do so’.

This was found to be contrary to procedures for such inquiries which state an investigation must gather all the relevant evidence before a report is prepared.

Mr Zimuto criticised the doctors who handled the inquiry for being ‘open to evidence which implicated the claimant’, but ‘closed to the evidence that could exculpate the claimant’, and stated they put the onus on the claimant to prove his innocence.

He also stated the chair of the hearing had not spoken to key witnesses or looked at ward notes.

These notes he said could have confirmed the claimant was not at key meetings when he was supposed to have met Drs X and Y. He also criticised the decision only to allow three days for the appeal hearing saying: “In my view the length of the appeal is unable to address the shortcomings in the investigation.”

A spokesperson for Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust said: “The Trust remains disappointed with the outcome of the recent Employment Tribunal. Currently, we are considering the grounds upon which the Trust might lodge an appeal against the judgment.”