A surgeon sacked by Oxford University Hospitals Trust for allegedly sexually harassing two trainee doctors was yesterday (Wednesday) due to begin his evidence at an employment tribunal.
The middle-aged consultant – who cannot be named for legal reasons – is suing for unfair dismissal, breach of contract, racial discrimination, sexual discrimination and loss of wages and claiming allegations were fabricated as part of a move by Trust managers to force him out of his job amid budget cuts.
The surgeon allegedly made sexual advances on the trainee doctors, including stroking their legs, and begged them to join him at his house after work, the employment tribunal was told.
The young doctors claimed they were told they would receive unfavourable write-ups in their progress reports if they did not accede to his demands.
However, at the employment tribunal on Monday, the consultant claimed he was actually showing “concern” which was misunderstood.
The tribunal, being held in Reading, heard from Professor Edward Baker, deputy chief inspector of hospitals for the Care Quality Commission.
As medical director and deputy chief executive at the trust at the time, he chaired the appeal panel which heard the surgeon’s challenge after he was dismissed from his position following the women’s complaints and an investigation.
Professor Baker told the tribunal that the surgeon claimed the appeal panel was biased against him.
“This is untrue, I was impartial and independent,” he said.“The claimant’s position in relation to the allegations against him during the appeal was that (the female doctor) had been spoken to by him in broadly the terms described but that he had been misconstrued, due to his poor command of English.
“The claimant did not deny asking about her personal life or discussing meeting privately but said this was a result of his concerns for her and with her interests in mind as she was a poor trainee.”
Professor Baker said the appeal also heard that the surgeon claimed the second woman was lying about his behaviour.
One of the women alleged the surgeon touched her inappropriately on the leg in a failed sexual advance in his office, while the other said he sent her “persistent” text messages asking her to come over to his house after work.
His appeal against dismissal was rejected by the panel.
Professor Baker said: “We did not accept this was a well-intentioned attempt to provide support to a struggling trainee. Nothing in the claimant’s actions was consistent with what I would have expected of a senior clinician thinking of appropriate ways to support a trainee.”
He noted that both women’s accounts of the alleged harassment had been “strikingly similar”, which led the panel to believe they were true.
“We felt the behaviour of the claimant fell far below what was acceptable from any employee and in particular a senior clinician with responsibility for trainees,” he told the tribunal.
“The panel’s decision to uphold the claimant’s dismissal was not related to the proposed restructure at (the hospital).
“The claimant’s dismissal in reality caused problems for the trust.”
The tribunal is expected to last until the end of next week.