"A whistle-blowing doctor who was at the centre of a gagging row, has retired after deciding her career in Scotland is beyond repair.
Dr Jane Hamilton now advises any doctor thinking of blowing the whistle in Scotland to think very hard before doing so as it has ruined her professional life.
The consultant perinatal psychiatrist has been working in Hull where her specialist expertise has been warmly welcomed. But her family is settled north of the border and she has finally found the weekly commute too demanding.
However she believes she is now seen as a trouble-maker within the NHS in Scotland. Jobs she has applied for have been re-advertised shortly afterwards.
“It would appear they would rather have nobody than have me,” she said.
She and her family had moved north in 2007 because Dr Hamilton had been appointed to the Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) at St John's Hospital in Livingston. Her national reputation in the care of mothers with severe psychiatric problems had been recognised when she was asked to help draw up the UK guidelines before her appointment in Scotland.
By the end of 2007 she raised concerns over how the unit was being run and shortly afterwards warned in writing that patients could die. Two women patients subsequently took their own lives and the family of one is now suing the health board for medical negligence.
The unit continues to make headlines. Earlier this month there were reports of a vulnerable mother leaving her baby in the unit, before getting out and being hit by two different vehicles, in what some believe was a suicide attempt.
In June Erin Sutherland pled guilty to culpable homicide after she smothered her 10 month old baby Chloe.
Her doctor sought specialist help when Chloe was eight-months old, but support was not offered by the MBU. The suggestion made in court that post-natal depression was not deemed to be a problem after six months, was subsequently challenged by Dr Hamilton.
After raising concerns Dr Hamilton was off with stress related illness, then worked elsewhere but wasn’t allowed to return to the unit, officially leaving NHS Lothian earlier this year.
The health board and Scottish Government have always insisted her concerns were thoroughly and independently investigated and were unfounded. However sources suggested otherwise.
A more recent investigation by NHS Lothian, which is not to be published despite appeals, is understood to have found no fault with Dr Hamilton’s professional abilities nor did it criticise her actions.
In the aftermath of the controversy over an alleged attempt by NHS Lothian to gag her in a compromise agreement for her to leave, something the health board has always vehemently denied, ministers effectively outlawed the future use of any such clauses by public bodies.
Meanwhile Dr Hamilton has become an active member of the recently founded campaign group A Safe and Accountable People’s NHS in Scotland (ASAP- NHS) , which is calling for the setting up of a genuinely independent NHS regulatory body.
Dr Hamilton said: “I didn’t want my career to end like this, but it is clear to me my reputation has been irreparably damaged."
She doesn’t believe her concerns were ever properly investigated, and added: “Of course health employees should blow the whistle, but should realise they may end up paying a very heavy price.”
Neil Findlay Labour MSP for Lothian, said:“Jane Hamilton’s case is shameful. Here we have a women with an unblemished career who has been victimised and effectively blacklisted from getting a job in Scotland for the ‘crime’ of raising concerns about patient safety and poor practices in what should be a national centre of excellence.”
He said people who want to make our health care better should not be treated this way.
But a Scottish Government spokeswoman said whistle-blowers were being protected. Health boards had to ensure it was safe for staff to speak about any concerns, particularly patient safety, which would be investigated.
She said there was the National Confidential Alert Line, and non-executive Whistleblowing Champions were being introduced in each health board
Ministers were also committed to establishing an Independent National Whistleblowing Officer, to provide an independent and external review on the handling of whistleblowing cases in NHS Scotland."
My comment on Herald article:
"Some of us whistleblowers never even got a career or a big pension, having had to rescue ourselves and family members out of psychiatry, on occasion over a lifetime. Blaming mothers for a failed system and expecting us to pick up the pieces after psychiatric abuse. And for our efforts are bullied and badmouthed, excluded and sent packing. It has to be said.
My thoughts are with the unwaged carers and mothers, of mental health service users and psychiatric survivors. Taking the strain. Feeling the pain. Resisting the pressure. In defiance."