Towards the end of September we had another ‘persecuted Christian’ story make the news. It related to the case of Dr David Drew who was dismissed from his role as a consultant paediatrician at Walsall Manor Hospital in December 2010. Prior to this he had sent an email designed to motivate his department which had included a 16th-century prayer by St Ignatius Loyola. He had prefaced the prayer, called ‘To give and not to count the cost’, with the words: ‘I find this a personal inspiration in my frail imperfect efforts to serve my patients, their families and our department.’
Following a complaint from managers not directly involved with the communication, he was reprimanded for using Christian references in some of his professional communications and told he was no longer permitted to continue with this practice. Dr Drew refused to accept this restriction and as a result after further reviews was removed from his post for “gross misconduct and insubordination”.
Since then his case has been to Employment Tribunal and last month an Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the original decision concluding that he had not been unfairly dismissed.
So there we go. A Christian doctor annoys colleagues by being too pushy with his faith. He is asked to stop talking about God in his communications. He refuses and consequently is sacked. According to some reports that is pretty much it. It’s a lesson to those Christians who try to evangelise their colleagues in a vexatious and insensitive way.
Well actually it most definitely isn’t.
Dr Drew’s long and complex story starts well before the St’ Ignatius prayer incident. Dr Drew, a respected paediatrician with a 37-year unblemished career had repeatedly raised the alarm about the dangers of a broken heating system, staffing cuts and bullying managers on child safety.
The problems started when Dr Drew, who was clinical director at Walsall Manor Hospital, raised concerns about a consultant who allowed a child with suspicious injuries to go home despite warnings from other staff. The toddler, Kyle Keen, was later killed by his abusive step-father who was jailed for manslaughter in 2007.
Dr Drew also repeated concerns about sick children being cared for in freezing wards during the winter of 2008/09, and that children were forced to share toilet facilities with adults on an unsupervised ward, despite earlier incidents of alleged child abuse. He also raised concerns about cutting paediatric nurses and doctors in order to meet savings required for foundation trust status. These concerns were largely ignored.
In April 2009 following a verbal complaint by the Head Nurse, Drew was excluded for 6 weeks. A National Clinical Assessment Service (NCAS) report found that the Medical Director (MD) had reported Drew as obstructive, unmanageable, possibly psychotic and guilty of leaking details of a murdered child to the press. He said Drew was a danger to both staff and patients. He sent Drew an urgent psychiatric appointment and wrote that he was excluding Drew ‘on NCAS advice’. This was untrue. 6 weeks later, the MD asked Drew to go back to work.
An internal investigation concluded he had “no case to answer” over misconduct, but recommended he not use Christian references in professional correspondence. This recommendation came as a surprise to Dr Drew as there had been no previous issues with his faith or complaints about his communications. He subsequently returned to work, but refused to agree to suppressing mention of his faith. In October 2009 he wrote to the CEO registering further concerns about the department including bullying. He also registered a grievance against the MD for wrongful exclusion. He met the trust chair with the BMA and he agreed to an Independent Review of Drew’s grievance and of relationships in the department.
A Review Panel was commissioned by recommendation of the Royal College of Paediatrics and reported on 26 March 2010. It found that, from October 2008, the paediatric department had been run by three managers ‘lacking in paediatric knowledge, managerially aggressive and failing to engage front line clinical staff.’ The trust was instructed not to allow two of them to work in the department again.
In June 2010 Drew met the CEO with the BMA and was offered a package worth £242,000 to leave immediately. Drew was required to sign a gagging clause. He replied in writing that this was a bribe which he could not accept.
Having been told by his chief executive that he would be dismissed by disciplinary procedure if he did not sign it, he was removed from his post six months later still refusing to agree to make no mention of his faith at work. And it was this refusal to follow recommendations that lost him his case at employment tribunal.
To say that Dr. Drew has suffered a series of injustices is an understatement. Despite his attempts to highlight failings at his hospital, his concerns were suppressed by the hospital’s management. He was required by the Chief Executive to attend sessions with a clinical psychologist, but even though the psychiatrist found no evidence of mental illness, the allegations continued that Dr Drew was mentally unstable in what can only have been an attempt to discredit him. He reports that this tactic has been used against other whistleblowers in the NHS. Since this case took place there has been an outcry over cover-ups and the use of gagging clauses in the NHS following the public inquiry into the scandal at Stafford Hospital in which hundreds of people died amid “appalling” levels of care.
Dr Drew was also let down by the British Medical Association who withdrew legal support from him because he refused to sign the gagging clause. He then had to hire his own personal legal team at great expense to himself.
In the end it was Dr Drew’s Christian faith that was used to bring him down. Including a well-known prayer by St Ignatius in an email as an incentive to his staff was not considered an issue by anyone who received it. His department was multi-faith and faith issues were frequently discussed. At the tribunal a text message from Dr Drew to one of his colleagues, Rob Hodgkiss, wishing him “a peaceful Christmas” was presented. A report noted: “While DD may regard such messages as benign RH perceived them as aggressive and unwelcome intrusions into his private time.” Such an overly sensitive reaction is almost laughable.
Dr Drew’s case has been supported by Dr Phil Hammond who writes the Medicine Balls column for Private Eye and Andrew Mitchell MP now has taken it to the Health Select Committee to be looked over.
This shocking story is summarised well by Dr Drew in his own words:
‘In a much deeper way than the fact that I sent a prayer to some colleagues my case is fundamentally about my faith. I have behaved honestly and with integrity as a Christian should throughout. I do not doubt that staff of other faiths or none are capable of experiencing the same moral compulsion. But speaking up for children and their parents and for my colleagues, especially the nurses, and against what was clearly dishonest and unethical behaviour was always for me a Christian duty.’
Tomorrow this blog will publish a preview extract from David Drew’s new book, Little Stories of Life and Death @NHSWhistleblowr, that documents this story from his own perspective.
UPDATE: this is now available to read HERE.
A video of David Drew discussing his whistleblowing can be seen here.