'Whistleblower' consultant claims he was demoted after raising concerns about death of heart patient

An employment tribunal is hearing claims by a consultant cardiologist employed by the Hull NHS trust (Photo: Peter Byrne)
An employment tribunal is hearing claims by a consultant cardiologist employed by the Hull NHS trust (Photo: Peter Byrne)

Dr Thanjavur Bragadeesh is giving evidence at an employment tribunal in Hull. Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is contesting his claims.

Dr Bragadeesh's witness statement said he raised concerns with the trust the day after the patient died in July 2020, but instead of addressing "systemic issues and ensuring accountability...the focus shifted to undermining my credibility and protecting those responsible for the tragic event."

The "transcatheter aortic valve implantation" or TAVI procedure introduced at Castle Hill Hospital in 2019, an alternative to open heart surgery, involves inserting a catheter into a blood vessel and using it to guide and fix a replacement valve over the old one.

Dr Bragadeesh claims that a sheath which was “way too big” was used and doctors used the right side of the patient's groin for access, despite being warned it was unsuitable. He says this caused the narrowed artery to split into two, causing severe bleeding and "uncontrollable" pain as the patient had no blood supply to the leg for several hours. The patient had major surgery to repair the artery, but developed complications and died on July 18 2020.

A serious incident was declared on 24 July, but three weeks later he was asked to step down as clinical director temporarily, a decision made permanent the following February. The doctor, who is represented by Hudgell Solicitors, claims that the serious investigation report issued in May 2021 contained "multiple contradictions and factually inaccurate conclusions".

The tribunal heard there was a background history of “warring factions" within the cardiology department.

Barrister for the trust Benjamin Uduje said vexatious allegations had been made on both sides.

Yesterday Mr Uduje asked: "Do you accept the department at this time was dysfunctional?"

Dr Bragadeesh said: "Yes, it has been described as dysfunctional for years, long before I was appointed."

A review by the Royal College of Physicians later supported the decision to “step down” Dr Bragadeesh, who still works for the trust but is on restricted duties, and two other colleagues.

In his witness statement Dr Bragadeesh says one doctor made complaints against him at the trust in July 2019, June 2020 about his clinical practice at Spire Hospital and at the trust in August 2020. He was cleared of any wrongdoing of the first two, he said, while the third was later found to be “baseless”.

In cross examination Mr Uduje claimed Dr Bragadeesh was collating information to bring a complaint against the doctor and the death of Patient A offered “cast iron” evidence: "You wanted it declared a serious incident.

"It is quite evident, viewed objectively, that you were at this point being driven not out of public interest and potential safety concerns, you were being driven by your personal goals, personal issues (with one doctor and ‘to some extent’ another). You wanted them investigated as a way of getting back to the (first) doctor for what he put you through."

The tribunal continues.