Trust withdraws allegations against consultant

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: (Published 10 June 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:1486

One of the longest running employment disputes in the NHS ended last week when the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust unconditionally withdrew “all allegations, criticisms, and charges” against Dr Helena Daly, formerly a consultant haematologist at Treliske Hospital. Both parties agreed, however, that Dr Daly should not return to her former job, from which she was first suspended nearly three years ago.

The case took a bizarre turn last summer when John Saxby, former chief executive of the trust, publicly admitted that his action in suspending and demoting Dr Daly had been “inappropriate.” Dr Daly has always maintained that she and Mr Saxby were lovers and that resentment of the affair among hospital staff was the motive behind many of the complaints made against her. Mr Saxby gave evidence against her before a disciplinary committee in 1993, which later recommended her dismissal. Last year Mr Saxby agreed to testify on Dr Daly's behalf before the professional committee of the secretary of state for health.

On the day the appeal was due to begin a last minute settlement was reached between the parties. In a statement the trust acknowledged that “certain evidence against her was accepted which now appears unreliable. For that reason only, the trust concedes solely for the purposes of the professional committee that the decision to terminate the appointment was unfair.” Mr Saxby, now chief executive of the Darlington Hospitals Trust, was present at a press conference called to announce the settlement.

Most of the 23 allegations against Dr Daly related to behaviour towards her subordinates. She argued that her only fault was putting patients' interests before those of staff, and she added that “women consultants who behave as men consultants do are criticised for so doing.”

The case has cost the trust at least pounds sterling300000, which includes a sum to cover part of Dr Daly's legal costs. She has also retained her pounds sterling50000 salary throughout the dispute. In addition, the trust has agreed to pay for a six month clinical refresher course for her and to do all in its power to find her a suitable position as a consultant haematologist elsewhere in the NHS.

Referring to her decision not to seek reinstatement at Treliske Hospital, Dr Daly said:

Mr Saxby and Dr Daly


“It is inevitable that efforts by an employer to justify, or by a doctor to resist, wrongful suspension will force the parties into entrenched positions from which it is difficult to emerge and work satisfactorily. I am deeply saddened that I can no longer care for those patients in Cornwall who have supported me.”

Dr Daly criticised the “gender culture” in some hospitals, with its “stereotypic expectations of how women consultants should behave.” She said, “I had never experienced such discrimination until I became a consultant. I broke through the ‘glass ceiling' in my early 30s. It was the concrete behind it that affected me.”—OWEN DYER, freelance journalist, London

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