Doctors ‘only looked for evidence of guilt’

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An employment tribunal investigating the case of a surgeon who was sacked by Oxford University Hospitals Trust has been brought to a close.

The lawyer representing the surgeon, who was sacked after being accused of sexually harassing two female junior doctors, gave his closing statements to the tribunal, held at Reading, on Monday.

The surgeon believes the allegations of sexual harassment, which involved touching one doctor’s leg and inviting another to his flat for dinner, were fabricated as part of a move by Trust managers to force him out of his job amid budget cuts.

But when discussing these allegations and the surgeon’s original disciplinary hearing, tirbunal judge A Gumbiti Zimuto, said: “I’m not sure the evidence presented supports a conclusion of what motivated the investigation.”

Charles Crow, representing the surgeon, who cannot be named for legal reasons, gave his final statement reiterating the surgeon’s denial of the alleged offences and the reasons he is suing the Trust for unfair dismissal, breach of contract, racial discrimination, sexual discrimination and loss of earnings.

Of the Trust’s original disciplinary hearing which led to the surgeon’s sacking, he said: “I will use the analogy of a puzzle made up of many different pieces.

“The burden was on the Trust to prove each piece and to prove the allegations of sexual harassment alleged.

“But the decision makers were not willing to look at individual pieces at all.”

Mr Crow criticised the Trust’s disciplinary process, saying investigating doctors were ‘only looking for evidence of guilt’.

He said in his initial enquiry into the allegations one doctor ‘couldn’t determine where the truth lay’ and criticised delays in the proceedings and the lack of further investigation into the allegations before the disciplinary hearing took place.

He also criticised the failure to interview key witnesses whom he said could have ascertained whether the surgeon touched a junior doctor’s leg at a radiology meeting as alleged, and to obtain notes proving whether or not the claimant could have met with a junior doctor at the times she alleged.

He said the alleged incident at the radiology meeting was not seen by any of the other junior doctors who would have been there and that one doctor who was there denied it could have happened.

Putting the Trust’s case, Simon Cheethan said if the judge accepted physical touching had happened then it would put all the other allegations into context.

He said delays in the investigation were not excessive given the busy schedules followed by senior doctors involved.

The surgeon told the tribunal he believed the two doctors may have colluded when coming up with their allegations because they had at one point shared the same room at the hospital, although they were not friends before this.

Mr Cheethan said if collusion between the two junior doctors could not be proved then there were two independent accounts of what had happened.

l A decision on the case is expected within 28 days.