By Andrew Gilligan
Published: 9:00PM GMT 20 Feb 2010
David Holt said his wife, Kim, a consultant of 25 years’ standing, was “in shock” after the world-famous hospital advertised her job recently without even telling her.
“She couldn’t believe it,” he said. “She was speechless. This kind of behaviour completely blows out of the water any belief in the hospital’s good faith, or their ability to change the oppressive culture Kim has experienced.”
The move is the latest in a string of cases where the NHS’s promises to protect whistle-blowers have proved false.
The inquiry into the Stafford hospital scandal has heard how medical staff who tried to warn of fatal failings at the trust were threatened into silence by NHS managers.
This month, a London consultant, Ramon Niekrash, won an employment tribunal case against Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich, after he was victimised for raising concerns about cost-cutting.
Dr Holt’s MP, Lynne Featherstone, has said that colleagues who supported Dr Holt are being “bullied” and “pressured” by the hospital.
However, further staff have come forward to speak of serious problems at Great Ormond Street.
In December, Great Ormond Street promised to reach a “swift and amicable solution” with Dr Holt after a damning NHS London report largely vindicated her criticisms of the child abuse clinic in Haringey, for which Great Ormond Street provided the doctors.
Dr Holt has spent the last three years on “special leave” since warning – more than a year before Baby P came to the clinic – that she and other doctors there were dangerously overworked and a child would die unless action was taken.
Tomorrow Dr Sabah al-Zayyat, the temporary locum who replaced Dr Holt after she was forced out of the clinic, goes before the General Medical Council, accused of missing serious injuries to Baby Peter two days before he died.
Great Ormond Street promised to implement the recommendations of the NHS London report, one of which was that Dr Holt had done nothing wrong and should be reinstated. However, more than two months after its publication, said her husband, there has been no movement.
“Saying that nothing has happened is almost too positive,” said Mr Holt. “What has happened is that they are pushing forward with their plan to drive Kim out of the service.”
Dr Holt herself – who first raised her concerns in The Sunday Telegraph – has been warned by the BMA not to speak to the media again for fear that the hospital will use it as a pretext to sack her.
But her husband said she had been asked to sign an agreement that was tantamount to a “death warrant.”
“They called it an independent mediation agreement, but it looked more like an exit agreement,” he said. “Kim would have to agree to be bound by it, and the hospital was given the final say over her fate. T
“here is no case for mediation, even if it was genuinely independent, because NHS London has already said Kim should return to her job. This is just another way of disposing of her.”
Shortly after the mediation agreement was proposed, Dr Holt opened the British Medical Journal to find that the job she was supposed to return to was being advertised.
“That was the most blatant example of the way Great Ormond Street act,” said Mr Holt. “They clearly believe they are completely impregnable and beyond the law and they intend to carry on exactly as they always have done.”
Mr Holt said that his wife had received “overwhelming support” from fellow staff at the hospital since her Sunday Telegraph interview.
“She was approached by a number of other senior individuals in the Trust who feel the same way she does, particularly about the way in which Great Ormond Street is being managed and the oppressive culture there,” he said.
“Maybe Kim is being treated in the way she is because the management are desperately trying to deter others from going public.”
Mr Holt, who is director of finance at the FTSE 100 property giant Land Securities, said: “I have been in the business world for 25 years and I have never seen anything like this.
“In most blue-chip organisations people are allowed to express a view without being quashed or targeted.”
Mr Holt appealed to potential staff to avoid Great Ormond Street. “Don’t believe the hype,” he said. “Don’t work there. There are clearly major problems at this hospital and my concern is that by ignoring them, they could bring down a great national institution.”
A Great Ormond Street spokesman said: “We are committed to resolving the matter with our employee but regard it as a private matter.”