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Costly dispute with doctor is set to continue with further appeal
The trust that runs Airedale Hospital has revealed that a three-year dispute with one of its doctors has so far cost the taxpayer in excess of £430,000.
Legal fees and the cost of replacement staff while the dispute continues has led to the bill – which is likely to increase further as the dispute continues.
Elizabeth McMillan started working at the hospital in 2008 in the role of consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist.
In June 2010, she was involved in what was described as “a serious untoward incident” when a patient suffered serious and uncontrolled bleeding following a successful caesarean delivery. It required emergency surgery to remove the unnamed patient’s spleen.
The patient has since recovered.
When the incident was investigated, staff were concerned that Miss McMillan seemed to give a different view of events to investigators than she did to the patient and her family.
The Airedale NHS Foundation Trust decided she had not provided “a full and honest account” of the incident and in September of that year she was referred to a disciplinary panel and relieved of her duties from November 2010.
The panel decided to sanction Miss McMillan with a written warning in November 2011.
Denying the findings, she appealed this decision, but the trust’s claims were upheld. However, she soon discovered her bosses planned to increase the sanction against her, and go as far as dismissing her from her role. Her bosses claimed her actions meant the trust “had lost trust and confidence in her and the relationship between Miss McMillan and her colleagues had irrevocably broken down”.
They planned to use her appeal to increase the sanction, and she started legal action to prevent this.
A hearing was held over several days in December 2012 and February this year, and in June Judge Hegarty QC returned his verdict – ruling that the trust had no power to increase Miss McMillan’s punishment through an appeal process. He said appeals can only be used for the employee’s benefit.
Despite already having paid hefty legal bills, the trust has decided to appeal this latest judgement.
Figures released through a Freedom of Information request show that so far the ongoing legal action has cost the trust £110,251. And it has had to pay a further £319,799 for replacement staff to cover Miss McMillan’s role since November 2010. The costs are expected to rise as the legal wranglings continue.
At the hearing the High Court was told that Miss McMillan had an “unblemished record” until the incident.
A spokesman for the Airedale Hospital Trust said yesterday: “The trust has sought permission to appeal the High Court udgment. It would be inappropriate to comment further whilst legal proceedings are ongoing.”