July 14, 2022 10.32 pm

Lincoln doctor’s four years of hell after unfair ‘racist’ dismissal

Employment tribunal found in favour of experienced doctor

By Local Democracy Reporter

A respected doctor who was unfairly sacked by Lincolnshire’s hospital trust after a ‘racist’ investigation has said he always knew justice would prevail.

Professor Tanweer Ahmed, a leading voice in Lincoln’s ethnic communities, was hounded out of his job by “laughable” allegations of bullying, an employment tribunal has concluded.

The hospital’s disciplinary procedure was mishandled at almost every stage, putting him through years of stress.

The tribunal found that he had been the victim of racial discrimination, unfair dismissal and victimisation.

The NHS trust denied that race played a factor in the dismissal, but Professor Ahmed wants to see an independent investigation into discrimination.

“It’s a relief to get this decision at last – it’s been four years of stress. I had to take anti-depressants to cope with the financial and emotional impact. It was an extremely difficult time,” he said.

“I couldn’t have come through without the support of my family and the colleagues who spoke up for me. I always knew that I had done nothing wrong, and had confidence that justice would prevail.

Professor Tanweer Ahmed was the Chairman and Trustee of the Islamic Association of Lincoln.

“NHS England needs to conduct an independent enquiry into discrimination in Lincolnshire hospitals to learn from what has happened to me and others.

“Up to 70% of staff in some departments are BAME (Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic), and when they are not looking after then patient care is seriously affected. They must be treated with dignity and respect.

“I have always fought to help BAME staff members, and will keep working constructively with hospital authorities to fight for them.

“Two of my children are training to be doctors, and I don’t want them to suffer the way I have.”

Key takeaways from the employment tribunal

  • No “plausible explanation” was given by the Trust why the dismissal wasn’t motivated by race
  • Only people who supported the allegations were interviewed – not those who could exonerate him
  • The nurse assigned to investigate the complaints was in a dispute with Professor Ahmed over prayer rooms
  • The Trust failed to explain to the tribunal why the report was biased against him
  • One witness was asked about Professor Ahmed’s “English or his culture” and “anything around religion?”
  • A report recommended that he was given training – instead a panel was convened to dismiss him
  • A HR director who escalated the complaint accused him of “playing the race card”
  • The format of the hospital panel was “entirely biased in favour of the [Trust’s]  witnesses”, who were coached beforehand
  • The “obviously biased” panel’s decision to dismiss was a “foregone conclusion”.

Dr Ahmed was dismissed for gross misconduct after a ‘flawed’ investigation | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The ‘flawed’ investigation

Professor Ahmed had a spotless record with the trust, where he had worked for 16 years. He was the Director of Lincolnshire Clinical Research Facility at the time, and also chaired the BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) staff network.

Allegations of bullying and harrasment were first raised by a former member of Professor Ahmed’s team after she resigned in 2018.

The tribunal said they were based mainly on hearsay, and he has maintained that these claims were ‘malicious’ retaliation.

Jennie Negus, then the deputy chief nurse’s report, only interviewed people who would back up the allegations, not Professor Ahmed.

He was kept in the dark about the full allegations against him for nearly a year.

Deputy Chief Nurse Jennie Negus and HR Director Martin Rayson were involved in the ‘flawed’ investigation and disciplinary hearing | Photo: NHS ULHT

The ‘entirely biased’ panel 

The report didn’t recommend that any disciplinary action was needed.

However Martin Rayson, the Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development, escalated it to a hearing which would look into dismissing Professor Ahmed.

He admitted in one email that he’d had a recent “row in the car park” with him, and said “Tanweer will place the race card”.

The panel’s format was “entirely biased” in the hospital witnesses’ favour.

Professor Ahmed’s PA – who hadn’t been interviewed during the investigation – described the allegations against him as “laughable”, and many of them were disproved.

However, the panel (chaired by Director of Operations Simon Evans) fired him for gross misconduct.

The tribunal’s damning verdict

Professor Ahmed was vindicated in the results of an employment tribunal hearing which have just been released.

The hearing found that the Trust didn’t present any logical reason why he was fired – and couldn’t come up with an explanation to rule out racism.

The employment tribunal concluded: “We cannot see how [the Trust] legitimately concluded that he was guilty of gross misconduct.

“We cannot, therefore, conclude on the balance of probabilities that race had nothing whatsoever to do with his dismissal.”

A spokesperson for the United Lincolnshire Health Trust said: “We have received the judgement of the employment tribunal panel, and are taking time to fully consider it and any learning we might take.

“As an organisation, we take a zero-tolerance approach to discriminatory behaviour of any kind. We have recently launched a new organisational strategy and campaign which demonstrates just how seriously we take this issue on behalf of our staff and patients.”

Read the full employment tribunal hearing here.