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Trust loses whistleblowing case over ‘pioneering’ procedure

A senior medic has won a whistleblowing case after judges ruled she was dismissed after raising concerns about a new procedure her department was using.

An employment tribunal found consultant nephrologist Jasna Macanovic was fired from Portsmouth Hospitals University Trust in March 2018 after telling bosses a dialysis technique called “buttonholing”, which had been “championed” there, was potentially dangerous.

The trust’s case was that the way she had gone about raising concerns had made for an untenable working environment in the Wessex Kidney Centre.

The process saw a Care Quality Commission complaint, an independent investigation and multiple referrals to the General Medical Council.

Employment Judge Fowell said: “The plain fact is that after over twenty years of excellent service in the NHS, Dr Macanovic was dismissed from her post shortly after raising a series of protected disclosures about this one issue. It is no answer to a claim of whistleblowing to say that feelings ran so high that working relationships broke down completely, and so the whistleblower had to be dismissed.”

Dr Macanovic resigned from the regional renal transplant team in July 2016 when she discovered two incidents had occurred that “had not been reported by either surgeon” and felt that one of the surgeons had misled the medical director over the issue, the tribunal heard.

In an email sent after the resignation meeting, Dr Macanovic said the practice was considered inappropriate by the vast majority of experts in the field and that no other renal unit in England was using it. 

The case exposes some worrying governance, both within the trust and between it and the Care Quality Commission, with which the issues were raised in 2016.

When the CQC asked the trust for more information the unit’s clinical director responded that in his view that the deaths and infections were not due to the buttonholing.

The CQC made no further enquiries and wrote back saying “they were satisfied that there were no safety concerns and that appropriate governance had been followed”.

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Source: HSJ, 24 March 2022


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