The Ahmed scandal

Mr Shiban Ahmed FRCS was my colleague and former specialist advisor on paediatric surgery to the Healthcare Commission.

He sought my support after reporting serious concerns at Alder Hey (AH). For example, he’d warned against surgery in a physiologically stable child with an abdominal wall defect. His warnings were ignored and the child died within hours of operation. The notes went missing before the Royal College of Surgeons investigated. Alder Hey gave a “heavily redacted” letter on the case to the General Medical Council who didn’t seek an unredacted version.

Mr Ahmed has been stuck at home for years on full NHS pay (imagine the waste), unable to return to a department that discredited his mental health, hid evidence of this from him, and then breached its legal duty to disclose this evidence to his legal proceedings.

Once such wrongdoing is normalised, NHS safety is lost.

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Mr Shiban Ahmed FRCS, Consultant Paediatric Surgeon and Alder Hey whistleblower

Within 48 hours of formally complaining to Alder Hey about clinical governance matters, Ahmed’s “state of mind” was being derided behind his back. Further covert claims included that he was a “self-harm” risk. Letters claimed he was even suicidal (the “Suicide” letters).

Alder Hey disclosed none of these material documents to legal proceedings when Ahmed complained about this very issue. AH witness statements failed to exhibit them too.

After regulators failed to act, I disclosed the concealed “Suicide” letters to Dr Phil Hammond of Private Eye, accidentally risking contempt of court. My disclosures frustrated a BMA-brokered pay off from the Trust in my own whistleblowing case in 2012. But even then, there was still no proper investigation.

When I reported the cover up in a speech at the BMA, the AH Chair claimed the letters mentioning suicide don’t exist (they do – I have released them to Dr Phil Hammond, and he to Private Eye). AH’s QC reportedly told The Times that the letters exist, but weren’t relevant as Ahmed’s legal claims had nothing to do with mental health (they did).

It’s taken until 2016 for the Trust CEO to admit on oath (and until 2018 to admit in writing) that she’s never investigated those behind the “Suicide” letters and the Ahmed scandal, despite her repeated claims that all my concerns had been dealt with.

Instead, the Trust circulated my reports of Ahmed’s mistreatment to those responsible. One advocated using the General Medical Council (GMC) as a “weapon” against me. Another surreptitiously altered one of the letters claiming Ahmed was suicidal. He used it to “up the ante” (his words on oath) against me with the GMC. When I detected his alterations and reported it to the Trust, he gave multiple inconsistent accounts and yet Alder Hey has taken no action over this deception. Another colleague, by then the Trust Medical Director, even considered using the GMC to target Dr Phil Hammond, a member of the free press.

The judicial response

An Employment Tribunal (ET) judge saw no problems with any of this, failing to explain why, if such claims against Ahmed’s mental health were innocent:

  1. they were made covertly;
  2. they were concealed from legal proceedings when Ahmed complained;
  3. their existence was denied in writing by the AH Chair;
  4. their relevance was denied by the AH QC;
  5. one letter was surreptitiously altered, as evidence against me, before the GMC (I have both versions and his multiple accounts when caught).

The Dreyfus affair, which ran between 1894 and 1906, set a template for judicial failure to deal with serious misconduct in a leading profession (in that case, the military). The Stephen Lawrence case highlighted strong reluctance to address failures, on that occasion in the police. The Ahmed case illustrates serious misconduct and judicial reluctance to address it, this time in medicine.

The BBC have reported efforts to have a judicial inquiry into the whole affair.