Mr Karim, one of the country’s top robotic surgeons for prostate and kidney cancer, ended up living in a Travelodge while he took on the £300k battle with the regulator.
Mr Karim, a 64 year old father of two, said allegations against him arose from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) report in 2014 which ruled Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was inadequate and needed “urgent improvements.”
It said staff “did not feel they could raise concerns”. Mr Karim went on radio to discuss the Trust’s failings and blew the whistle on what he described as a poor surgical practice by inadequately-trained surgeons.
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He was suspended from the Trust in July 2014 on what he says were trumped up charges of bullying a junior colleague. In May 2015 he was told unless he signed a settlement agreeing not to take action against any Trust management he would face a disciplinary action and be sacked.
This would mean he could not get NHS employment again. As a result of the charges, he said the GMC put “catastrophic” and “life changing” restrictions on his medical practice during its investigation.
A Fitness to Practice hearing took place in April 2018 when he was found not to have committed misconduct. Mr Karim said the way he was targeted for whistleblowing had echoes of the case of Lucy Letby, who was found guilty of murdering seven babies while a nurse at the Countess of Chester hospital.
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The consultants who reported allegations also said they were warned by hospital bosses Letby’s parents were threatening to refer them to the GMC.
Mr Karim said: “This has echoes of the Lucy Letby case because whistleblowers were targeted after raising concerns.
There is a financial conflict of interest between senior management and the health and safety of patients and whistleblowers.
“Patients are not safe. Doctors are afraid to speak out in case they are referred to the GMC – and nurses can be referred to the nursing and midwifery council.
Whistleblowers are quashed by highly paid managers who are protecting their rich salaries and pensions at the expense of whistleblowers they manage.”
He added: “They treated me so harshly. It is a common modus operandi to make up false allegations against NHS whistleblowing doctors and send them to the GMC which looks at the allegations and puts conditions on your registration until an investigation is done in order to be seen to protect patients.
These investigations can take a long time and if you are eventually dismissed by the trust you can never work in the NHS again. My investigation took three and a half years.
In the meantime I lost my job, I lost my private work. I was unemployed and lived in a Travelodge for five years as I couldn’t get any permanent job except locum work in Portsmouth.
There are incalculable costs to the NHS and to doctors and it can destroy people.” Steve Barclay expressed concerns about claims of whistleblowing at University Hospitals Birmingham earlier this year.
This followed a BBC Newsnight investigation which heard claims that disciplinary processes were being used to intimidate clinicians.
UHB denied it had misused referrals to the General Medical Council.” Mr Barclay said it was “troubling to learn of reports that threats of referral to the General Medical Council (GMC) have been made towards those raising concerns”.
Anthony Omo, Director of Fitness to Practise and General Counsel at the GMC, said: “It is absolutely unacceptable for our fitness to practise processes to be used as a retaliatory measure to intimidate or punish whistleblowers.
“We’ve introduced a range of safeguards to prevent the misuse of our complaints system to make sure only complaints requiring GMC action are referred to us in the first place.
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