My Story (Latest Updates Shown In Red At Bottom Of This Page)
Photo Of Me Receiving The Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy Best Practice Employer Award Just Three Months Before I Was Sacked For Having A Poor Management Style!!!
My name is Ian Perkin and I am a Chartered Public Finance Accountant. I was Director of Finance, Information, Computing, Procurement and Legal Services at St George's Healthcare NHS Trust between September 1990 and December 2002 and had worked continuously in the finance department's of several local government and NHS organisations for a period of thirty-three years. I was also for three years a council member of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy. In all that time until I was dismissed by St George's I had never had a formal or informal complaint made against me, yet suddenly after all those years the Board of St George's decided that I had a difficult management style and was not a team player and that consequently I should be, quite against the NHS rules, sacked from my job without any prior formal warning and without any right of appeal. This is of course consistent with an approach that large organisations often follow when they are trying to get rid of someone who is prepared to tell the truth thereby embarrassing senior colleagues who may be involved in lying or cover ups. It means that individuals can be fired despite performing well and having done nothing wrong apart from speaking out against corruption. Typically, as in my case the Trust tried to make out that I had a character or personality problem in order to discredit me. This is not difficult to engineer as no one is perfect, and by the time the harassment, silence and unpleasantness have been going on for some time, any "normal" person would be upset, angry and frustrated by the attitude of its organisation to the truth. Closed organisations who act like this do so to protect themselves and those in senior positions from blame ( Click For Reference Source). It is easier to get rid of the person telling the truth rather than to confront and deal with the problems that the person who is telling the truth has raised . If you have the time to read this website you can judge for yourself whether the NHS has behaved in this way towards me.
My problems started in October 2001 when St George's Head of Information Wendy McCarthy came to see me to report that Kelly Goulding one of the hospitals information analysts had reported to her line manager that she had been told by the Deputy Chief Executive to alter the number of cancelled operations that had to be reported to the Department of Health to zero when she had calculated from the Trust's information systems that there had been a significant number of cancellations (Click Here For Full Details Of The Cancelled Operations Issue). This was a matter that I reported to the Chief Executive of the Trust Ian Hamilton and Board Colleagues Paul Jones (Medical Director), Marie Grant (Chief Nurse), Colin Watts (Director Of Human Resources) and John Parkes (Deputy Chief Executive) and then late in November 2001 to Catherine McLoughlin (Chairman of the Trust). In operational terms my raising the issue was a complete success, as it was agreed that the figures had not been correctly reported and the system for making alterations to the figures was changed for the future to ensure they to ensure that only the correct figures were reported up the line to the NHS. Unfortunately while I thought that was the end of the matter, it provoked an outburst from several of my Board colleagues that I was not a team player. When I received the papers informing me of my internal disciplinary hearing Ian Hamilton stated in his statement of case against me, "Both Professor Jones, the Medical Director and Marie Grant, the Director of Operations and Nursing have individually raised concerns directly with me, as the Chief Executive, about the harmonious working of the Executive Team and in particular, concerns about the harmonious working of the Executive Team and in particular, concerns in respect of Ian Perkin about his attitude and approach in his role of Director of Finance. These were initially raised in October 2001 and then over a period of time on an ad hoc basis in one to one meetings with me. These concerns have not been concerns about his technical skills or ability but rather, concerns that he was not behaving as a team player to the same extent as other Executive Team members." What was the significance of the October 2001 date, it was of course the date on which I raised with my executive director colleagues the fact that the Cancelled Operations figures were being misreported and it was the date after thirty-three years of working in the public services that I was for the first time being branded as not being a team player.
My second major problem was that in formulating a balanced budget for St George's Healthcare for the financial year2002/03 it soon became apparent that the Hospital would not be able to meet the £4.5 million cost reduction programme. For some considerable time the Trust had struggled to cope with the impact of the NHS calculating hospital savings targets by reference to the flawed HRG system which gave St George's a savings target that could not be justified. As a result St George's had been surviving financially not by finding more and better efficiency savings, but had instead been using non-recurring sources of funding to balance the books. This policy saw capital funds that should have been used to replace vital pieces of equipment and plant, instead being used to pay for things like staff salaries. The result of this policy which the Trust Board followed despite my advice to the contrary was that the hospital environment was becoming unsafe as evidenced in an e-mail sent by the Trust's Chief Engineer to members of the board in June 2002 where he listed a whole raft of vital health and safety legislation which was not being complied with.
I raised the seriousness of the financial problems of the Trust with the Chief Executive in an e-mail I sent him on the 20th February suggesting that he and I cleared our diaries to have a series of meetings with all the senior clinicians and managers to try and sensibly tackle the problem, but as was typical of Ian Hamilton's style he declined to follow my advice and did nothing. Consequently when I presented the 2002/03 budget for approval to the Board in May 2002 only about half of the cost reduction programme had been achieved and there was no likely hood of the remaining amount being found through further efficiencies (Click Here For Full Details Of The Financial Balance Issue). In July 2002 I met with the Trust's external auditor Simon Sharp of PricewaterhouseCoopers to complete the audit of the Trust's accounts for 2001/02 and to discuss the Trust's financial position for 2002/03. In discussing the 2002/03 position I told Simon Sharp that in my opinion the Cost Reduction Programme would not be achieved (correctly as it turned out) and that the Trust was only likely to balance its financial accounts in 2002/03 by utilising external financial sources (again as time has shown absolutely correct advice). Following this meeting I was asked on the 29th July by the Chief Executive and Director of Human Resources to resign from my post and when I refused they started disciplinary proceedings against me and sacked me. In a letter I received from Ian Hamilton outlining the Trust's case against me he stated, "The External Auditor considered that the Finance Director had taken a view that the Trust's finance position was irretrievable and that there was no solution likely within the Trust without external support. The auditor felt that the Director of Finance's views disclosed a very negative approach and he was most concerned that this would percolate to other members of the finance team." (Since my dismissal the Trust's underlying financial deficit has risen to a massive £11.5million and a recent Evening Standard article published on the 22nd March 2004 showed that this deficit was the worst of all the London Trusts). This is really an extraordinary statement for the external auditor, someone who should be fulfilling a public watchdog role, to make. In effect he seems to be saying that a Director of Finance can only impart "good news". Tell the truth about the NHS's intractable problems and you are perceived as being so negative that disciplinary action should be taken against you. This was not the only strange view that Simon Sharp expressed, particularly in a telephone conversation I had with him which I took the precaution of tape recording where he told me that problem was that, "I am too honest, open and robust" apparently qualities that according to Simon Sharp the modern accountable NHS do not require in a finance director. (Click Here For More Details on PricewaterhouseCoopers role in my case) I leave it to you to decide if I was fairly dealt with by the NHS and St George's and whether you think I should have been sacked.
Because of what happened to me I took St George's NHS Trust to the Employment Tribunal on the grounds that I was unfairly dismissed. After an eighteen day hearing which stretched over three months my case was concluded on the 14th June 2003 and I was told by my barrister that I should expect to wait slightly longer than the normal four weeks that as a rule applicants are expected to wait for employment tribunal judgments. What happened to me was a shock. After waiting several months for the judgment I was told that it would be promulgated on the 30th October 2003. On the lunchtime of that day I was told that it would not be issued on that date after all. I was then told that it would be issued on Monday 1st December but on the lunchtime of the preceding Friday I was again told the judgment would not be issued. In the end I had to wait until the 28th January 2004 the same day as the Hutton Inquirey reported for me to receive the judgement some seven and a half months after the hearing had ended. More shocks however were to come as while the Employment Tribunal unanimously ruled that I had been unfairly dismissed from my post and that I had made a protected disclosure in respect of the cancelled operations issue and had informed the External Auditor about the seriousness of the financial position they still accepted the word of Mcloughlin and Hamilton that I had a difficult management style even though Mclouglin had lied when giving evidence under oath and claimed that she was an unbiased Chairman who had no preconceived view about me before the NHS disciplinary had started. As a result of accepting that I had a difficult management style the Employment Tribunal ruled that I should not be reinstated or compensated for the loss of my employment, income and reputation. Perhaps even more worryingly was the fact that when I read the judgment in more detail, I found that the conclusion that I had a difficult management style was based as my QC puts it at least in part on the erroneous transposition of documents by the Tribunal itself.
My QC Brian Langstaff has now filed an appeal against the decision that was made by the Employment Tribunal on the basis that the decision they made was contrary to law and I have now been given leave for that appeal to be heard by an Employment Appeal Tribunal and I expect to have the case heard with the next six months.
If you are interested enough in my case you can research this website to find out the true facts. I have summed up my case in the next paragraph and I leave it you to judge whether my case has merit and should be continue to be perused.
Three Executive Directors of St Georgeís Healthcare NHS Trust who were aware of the issues surrounding the misreporting of cancelled operations in October 2001, have made a series of allegations against me, none of which they have been able to support with a single piece of independent evidence. The Trusts Published Disciplinary Procedures have been ignored and the only individuals called to give evidence in support of the allegations made against me have been one former retired NHS Finance Director, one general manger, who during the course of my internal hearing and quite against the Trustís Equal Opportunities Policy was promoted without the position ever having been advertised even internally within the Trust and one non-executive director whose past unfounded remarks about executive directors had been a factor in the resignation of the former Chairman of the Trustís Investment Committee from the St George's Board in December 2001. I believe for my part that I have been supported in statements made by board members and senior members of the Trust staff both past and present, which demonstrate that there is nothing wrong with my management style and that I have submitted substantial written material in defence of my position as Finance Director of the Trust, which demonstrates that I have been an active and successful member of the St Georgeís Board and that I have done nothing, which would justify summary dismissal from my post. Why therefore despite the weight of the evidence I submitted in my defence have I still been summarily dismissed from my position with no right of internal appeal, a right to which I am contractually entitled and why despite the public rhetoric from NHS officials at the highest level (Sir Nigel Crisp), have I not received the support that I should have expected as a potential "whistle-blower".
The real reason for my dismissal I would submit, was because the Chief Executive and the Chairman in particular, were uncomfortable with the fact that I made protected disclosures to them, when I drew their attention to the wrong doing reported by Kelly Goulding, that she had been told to falsely report cancelled operations figures and then pointed out to the external auditor, that there was a real risk, that the Trust was in serious danger of breaching its statutory duty to achieve financial balance. The reason why I was dismissed was because the Chairman of the Trust Miss McLoughlin and the Chief Executive had formed the judgement that the truth would not be acceptable to the senior management of the NHS and in turn their political masters and it is for this reason and only this reason that I was unfairly dismissed.
As a result of my involvement with the Panorama team I was asked to look back through my records to find out if I had evidence of any other activity within the NHS that should be opened to public scrutiny. It did not take me long to turn up evidence of other instances of questionable behaviour within the NHS. Probably the most important of these was the instruction that I received from the London Office of the NHS which is headed by John Bacon and which showed that the office which he heads gave a temporary loan to a health authority to deliberately allow the health authority to then lend money to two NHS Trusts so that they could pretend that they had hit their financial targets on the 31st March 2001, when in fact they had not (Click Here For More Details On This Incident). Clearly in my view an issue over which those responsible should resign. I have flagged up other serious issues, which I have brought to the attention of Sir Nigel Crisp Chief Executive of the NHS and which he has refused, as he has with other issues I have brought to his attention, to arrange for them to be independently investigated by someone outside of the NHS. One of these issues involved the appointment of a senior official to another NHS Trust who had been the subject of an adverse audit report and appears to have only got re-employed within the NHS on the strength of a reference from another very senior NHS official, who is currently Chief Executive of another NHS organisation. Another issue relates to how St George's extracted funding to which it was not entitled from local Primary Care Trusts, who send St George's their patients, a strategy which I know is followed by other NHS Trust's. The Healthcare Resource Groups (HRG's) system which in the past has been used to calculate hospital savings targets and which the government now say will form the basis of funding Foundation Hospitals is also exposed with all its inherent flaws. I think this is a particularly important issue as Richard Douglas the NHS Director of Finance & Investment has indicated that the system will be extended to be used as the basis for funding all hospitals not just Foundation Hospitals in due course. I have also profiled some of the members of St George' Board so that that you can judge for yourselves if you think they are people who have acted with fairness and integrity.
The issues of concern I have raised about what happens in the NHS have received considerable coverage in the media. I have appeared on a number of television problems including, BBC Hardtalk, BBC Panorama, and BBC London and many articles have been published in the both the national newspapers and the local media. Just click on the title to access these media links.
In closing I would just like to say a big thank you to members of the staff of St George's who with complete disregard to the harm that it might have been done to their own positions spoke the truth and made statements in my defence. Dominic Sharp, Wendy McCarthy, Kelly Goulding, Mike Cumberbatch, Professor Stuart Stanton, Mike Bailey, Janet Watson, Phil Sargeaunt, Michele Salter, David Boakes, Tracy Dean and Alistair Douglas. In addition although it is now nearly two years since I actually worked at St George's my former colleagues very kindly wrote to the local newspapers to declare their support for me when they new that I would be appealing against the Employment Tribunal decision not to allow me to be reinstated. To read the article that appeared in the Wandsworth Borough News please click here. Without their support I would be nowhere, I owe them everything.