Surgeon claims he was sacked for raising patient safety concerns

An experienced surgeon has alleged he was sacked by the NHS trust where he worked for whistleblowing.

Serryth Colbert, a specialist in head, neck, face and jaw surgery, was let go by Royal United Hospital (RUH) in Bath (pictured) in October for gross misconduct relating to “bullying and intimidation of colleagues”.

However, he has told the BBC it was because he was attempting to stop “wrongdoing”.

“It was never a question in my mind,” he said. “This is wrong. I’m stopping the wrongdoing. I stand for justice. I stand to protect patients.”

During his time at the hospital Mr Colbert claims he made several allegations regarding patient safety.

According to the BBC, these included reporting a dentist for unsafe use of anaesthetics and X-rays, who was disciplined as a result.

He also claims he raised concerns about the safety of some operations and reported another dentist for allegedly treating private patients with NHS resources.

In November 2020, he alleged that the RUH oral and maxillofacial (OMFS) department was “chasing targets” by carrying out routine tooth extractions rather than looking at cancer cases, which he said he thinks led to hundreds of patients having treatment delayed.

The BBC said its investigation has seen no evidence that Mr Colbert’s most serious concern was ever investigated and the surgeon is now taking RUH to an employment tribunal.

A cultural review of the RUH OMFS department was carried out after Mr Colbert’s allegations, the report said, but only a redacted version was published. The investigation was unable to uncover if the document mentioned the allegations.

A spokesperson for Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust denied Mr Colbert was sacked for raising concerns and said he was “dismissed last year for gross misconduct following significant concerns about bullying and intimidation of colleagues”.

They added: “These concerns were raised by a number of staff and thoroughly investigated by an independent expert as part of a robust disciplinary process.

“We strongly support all staff, patients, and families to raise concerns with us so they can be investigated and dealt with fairly.

“We have never dismissed anybody for raising concerns and never will.”

Commenting on Mr Colbert’s case, Dr Matt Kneale, co-chairman of the Doctors’ Association UK, said: “Another day, another doctor punished for whistleblowing in the NHS.

“Dr Serryth Colbert’s case is not isolated. It’s a glaring example of a systemic issue within NHS institutions where those who dare to stand up for patient safety face severe repercussions.

“The culture of targeting whistleblowers instead of addressing their concerns undermines the very ethos of healthcare. It’s time for a shift towards a system where transparency and accountability are not just encouraged but celebrated.”

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