A consultant urologist has been awarded £102,000 by a tribunal after he quit his job when ‘malicious’ allegations of racism were made against him.
Manchester Employment Tribunal ruled that Peter Duffy had been constructively unfairly dismissed due to breach of contract in relation to pay.
Duffy began working at Royal Lancaster Infirmary, which was controlled by the University Hospitals Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT), in 2000 as a consultant in the urology department.
In 2005, Duffy claimed a doctor of Indian descent had missed an operation on a patient with suspected gangrene because he was out playing golf. He also said two other colleagues of Asian heritage were involved in possible overtime fraud.
According to The Sun, Duffy said that after flagging these concerns, he was subjected to “malicious, toxic and utterly false” allegations over the period of a decade, culminating in accusations made to the police that he was racist.
In particular, tribunal documents showed that four anonymous letters were sent to the General Medical Council (GMC), Duffy’s professional regulator, between 2012 and 2014.
Employment Judge Slater said that, from the contents of the letters, they appeared to written by someone within Duffy’s department and “alleged matters which, if true, may have called into question [his] fitness to practice”.
However, it appeared that the GMC took no action as a result of the letters.
In 2015, Duffy transferred to Furness General, also controlled by UHMBT, and was later voted Doctor of the Year by patients and colleagues.
But he resigned from UHMBT in July 2016 after he claimed £36,000 had been cut from his annual salary amid “unproven allegations” about overtime claims.
The tribunal ruled he had been unfairly dismissed due to breach of contract over various issues, including pay – but ruled that whistleblowing did not play a part in him losing his job.
Duffy was awarded a total of £102,211, comprising £78,962 in compensation, £10,299 as a basic award for unfair dismissal and £12,950 for unlawful deduction of wages.
Speaking with People Management, Jane Fielding, partner and head of employment law at Gowling WLG, stressed the importance of employers properly supporting workers on the receiving end of false accusations.
“The support needed will vary depending on the impact of the situation on the individual,” Fielding continued. “For example, if they've been made ill by the situation, the employer will need to make sure they are taking the necessary steps to help the person recover and return to work.”
Susan Doris-Obando, counsel barrister in Dentons' employment team, added that employers should be clear in their terms and conditions about how pay is defined, to avoid being in breach of contract.
“Pay is an important part of an employment contract, and failure to pay can amount to a fundamental breach of contract entitling an employee to leave and claim constructive dismissal,” Doris-Obando said.
In a written statement, David Wilkinson, UHMBT’s director of people and organisational development, said the Trust was “disappointed and saddened” it was unable to settle matters in a “more informal manner”.
“We have worked hard to ensure that we have a culture where safety – both for our patients and our staff – is paramount and where staff are able to raise concerns without any fear,” Wilkinson said. “We are awaiting the written reasons for the judgment from the remedy hearing to establish if there are any further steps the Trust should take.”
He emphasised that, while Duffy’s unfair dismissal claim had succeeded, the majority of the accusations made by the consultant “were withdrawn on the first day of the employment tribunal”.
Duffy was quoted in The Sun as saying: “I felt my name had a smear against it. I had lost my confidence. I was upset and disoriented by everything. I didn’t want to work in the NHS following what happened.”
Photo: Cavendish Press