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Thursday, 26 February 2009

Ordeal finally ends for paediatric neurosurgeon

I am delighted to finally be able to tell you that Tim Buxton has won his high court action against Abertawe Bro Morgannwg NHS Trust.

It has been ordered to follow the correct Trust procedures until the outcome of a properly conducted professional disciplinary panel chaired by Mr Andrew Stafford QC is known, and to pay his back money.

Just to give you a bit of background to this case, Tim Buxton was working at Swansea's Morriston Hospital when he was dismissed from his post at the hospital in June 2005 after being on ‘special’ leave since 11 March 2003. The trust claimed that relationships with his consultant colleagues had broken down. He immediately appealed against the decision.

Since then, BMA Cymru Wales, Welsh assembly members and dozens of former patients have been fighting to get Tim reinstated. On 12 June 2006 an internal appeal hearing had to be abandoned by the Trust after BMA Cymru sought a declaration before the High Court. Then a year later, His Honour Judge Simon Brown QC sitting in High Court gave a judgment that the 'Professional' procedure should be adopted by the Trust.

On 12 February 2009 His Honour Judge Simon Brown QC again sitting in the High Court ordered that the Trust must pay back pay from June 2005, up until the date of the Professional Appeal.

The High Court found back in April 2007 that the Trust had deliberately used the wrong disciplinary procedure in Tim's internal appeal in 2006. Had it used the correct procedure from the beginning, Tim would have been entitled to be paid, pending his appeal.

It is very regrettable that the Trust has seen fit to deny Tim his contractual right to a professional hearing and his pay for the past three and half years. It has actually wasted NHS funds on legal costs to deny him his rights. It is through the recalcitrant attitude of the Trust that Tim was forced to go to the High Court in order to secure these rights and get the pay which has been his contractual entitlement all along.

Significantly the judge denied the Trust leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal and he also made an immediate order for an interim payment to be made by the Trust. The Trust have 14 days to pay the judgement debt figure of £430,534.89 plus interest representing Tim's back pay since his dismissal in 2005.

The High Court's decision means that the Trust must keep Tim on its books and in receipt of pay until the outcome of the professional disciplinary panel, is known.

In future, NHS Trusts will have to follow in good faith the contractual professional disciplinary procedures which have been negotiated by BMA Local Negotiating Committees (LNCs). Trusts which 'deliberately and erroneously' misclassify matters as 'personal conduct' to deny consultants the right of a correct hearing and so avoid paying them, can now expect to be challenged through the courts.

Tim has told me he’s delighted with the result and never doubted that justice would be done and is now looking to the future with optimism and hopefulness. He’s also told me that all he ever wanted to do was to provide a first rate standard of care for patients in Swansea and west Wales, who deserve a quality service during what is for them extremely distressing times in terms of treating their medical problems.

I am of course delighted that BMA Cymru Wales has managed to lead Tim through what has been for him a laborious and distressing journey. It is astonishing that while patients recognise the importance of retaining the expert skills of this consultant, the Trust was blind to it. It has taken nearly four years to get this Trust to do the right thing by this highly trained and highly regarded neurosurgeon. During this time BMA Cymru Wales has been urging the Trust to follow the correct procedures and stop wasting public money on lawyers. The people of Swansea, as well as being denied Tim’s expert skills have also seen the Trust fritter their money away on legal costs. BMA Cymru Wales will be pursuing what this case has cost the health service in Wales. And when I find out the cost, I will let you know!

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