Sharmila Chowdhury is an NHS whistleblower who reported consultant fraud in an NHS hospital and was dismissed as a result. The case is about as shocking as any I’ve come across.
Ms Chowdhury reported fraudulent professional claims (amounting to £280,000) to her senior management in an NHS Trust. The report was fully evidenced, but in a pernicious cover-up, false counterclaims were used to frame her. She was marched out of the hospital in full view of her colleagues by a senior HR manager – and then dismissed.
She quickly took the claim to a Tribunal, and won easily: the judge instructed the Trust to reinstate her, but its management refused…offering the convenient excuse that ‘new technology’ had rendered her post redundant. Short of funds and unemployed, Sharmila Chowdhury settled for a sum which barely covered her legal fees.
At Richmond House in June 2014, Chowdhury and six other similarly bullied whistleblowers went to Richmond house to meet with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. As part of his strategy to position the NHS as an overspending shambles riddled with corruption, Hunt had been mouthing off in the media about how NHS whistleblowers should come forward and be assured of complete protection.
At the Richmond House meeting, the Health Secretary was effusive in his thanks, and seemed committed to dealing with Chowdhury’s completely undeserved outcome. In February 2015, in fact, he told the House of Commons about whistleblowers “who were blacklisted from future employment in the NHS as the system closed ranks”. Closed ranks indeed: despite her qualifications backed up by 35 years’ NHS experience and an unblemished service record, Sharmila has been unable to find work in radiography or management, failed to get interviews, had interview offers withdrawn and even had a job offer withdrawn.
Now 56, she is out of work and about to fall behind on her mortgage. She has breast and lung cancer, with no partner to care for her.
This is Ms Chowdhury’s remarkably restrained response to what has happened to her:
‘I am puzzled by the stance of NHS leaders, including the Department of Health, CQC etc. We hear praise for whistleblowers in public but there has been no help for those of us who have been ruined. This sets a bad example. NHS staff see that speaking up can amount to professional suicide….My own case is not so complex. The action covers a short space of time. My claim was upheld at the tribunal. I am convinced that a full airing of my case would be conclusive and in the public interest.’
But Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, then man who urged all whistleblowers to come forward without fear, doesn’t want to know. Having asked Sir Robert Francis to chair the grandly titled Freedom to Speak Up Review, Hunt then used the raw material for his headline-grabbing Commons speech, in which Hunt also declared that he had “heard, again and again, horrific stories of people’s lives being destroyed – people losing their jobs, being financially ruined, being brought to the brink of suicide and with family lives shattered – because they had tried to do the right thing for patients.”
So shocked was the Health Secretary, in fact, he then proceeded to do nothing whatsoever to help the victims. Having enjoyed his platform, Jeremy Hunt moved on. A year on, he hasn’t responded to, or acted to right the injustice done to, Sharmila Chowdhury.
I am at a loss to understand why, given the established facts in this case – and its existence in the public domain for two years – no police investigation of the fraud involved has been launched….especially in the light of the Trust being overtly condemned by the Tribunal judge.
But then, these days the police are far too busy fitting up 90 year-old retired disc jockeys, and sitting on their thumbs in relation to the Elm House scandal….courtesy of Mayor Johnson.
I’ve been on Jeremy Hunt’s case for six years. As regular Sloggers will know, there’s a dedicated page Hunt Balls that has been following his career in politics – a saga I’ve come to think of as The Fake’s Progress.
And do not be in any doubt: the bloke is counterfeit. He lies, he evades, and he acts out views and attitudes that do not even begin to reflect what he really is. The only difference between Jeremy Hunt and Grant Shapps is that Grant isn’t very bright. What makes Hunt every bit as dangerous as Boris Johnson is that he has a high IQ with a penchant for grubby networking.
Jeremy Hunt’s company Hotcourses was saved from early death by his connection to Virginia Bottomley. It won prizes as an outstanding London employer using means which former employees claim were nothing short of vote rigging. This company was due to be bought, but under some sort of alleged due diligence cloud, the deal fell through. Cameron appointed Hunt as Culture & Media Secretary knowing his close relationship with BSkyB bidder Newscorp. During the bidding process, a great deal of evidence suggested that Hunt’s behaviour was improper. When this came to light, Hunt withheld many emails from MPs….emails that could easily be construed as incriminatory. His sole defence in the scandal that followed was “I have done nothing wrong”. Despite this apparent millstone round his neck, in the Cabinet reshuffle that followed, David Cameron promoted this Minister most had expected to be fired to Health Secretary. His second cousin by marriage Virginia Bottomley is the private health sector’s main lobbyist in the House of Lords. When she was elevated to the Lords, Hunt walked into her Commons seat of Surrey SW.
You see, Jeremy Hunt knows the right people. When Shadow culture secretary in 2008, he visited New York on ‘a fact-finding mission’ about the media there. While there, he had five meetings with one news organisation: Newscorp. Shortly afterwards, Newscorp switched its allegiance from Labour to Conservative. So you see, Jeremy is behind more stuff than most voters realise.
The trip to New York was bankrolled by a Mr J J Lewis of Somewhere in Dorset. Lewis was for some years the Chairman of Soho’s infamous Groucho Club. On Lewis’s watch, the Club was discovered to have been the owner of a paedophile-frequented website. It was also revealed to have been using surveillance cameras to record its members’ antics. When accused of this, Lewis sued the accuser, and lost. (Tyrone??)
This is the man who has been Jeremy Hunt’s major political donor for much of his career. What we don’t know is why. Although we do know that Lewis’s daughter was for some time an enthusiastic recreational regular at The Groucho….and that Lewis once shared an influential Tory committee with David Cameron.
Of the two portfolios Hunt has held, the first involved a massive conflict of interest given his long and well-documented relationship with Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp; the second was given to him despite a pamphlet he co-authored with Daniel Hannan on why the entire NHS should be dismantled.
I leave it to readers to draw their own conclusions as to the nature of Jeremy Hunt’s character.