A senior consultant doctor has won the right to return to full duties at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, against the wishes of his employer, following an order made by the High Court.
In January 2018 the Trust’s Medical Director immediately excluded Mr Al-Obaidi from work pending an investigation into allegations made against him. Four months later (and whilst the investigation was still on-going), he was allowed to return to work on a part time basis but at a different hospital and on restricted duties. Shortly afterwards, the investigation dismissed the more serious allegations against him. Despite this, the Trust refused to allow the doctor to return to full time work at his usual place of work until the disciplinary process was complete.
Mr Al-Obaidi objected to this and asked the High Court to grant an injunction to force the Trust to lift his restrictions and allow him to return to full duties.
Trust behaved irrationally
The High Court granted his application. It said that the Trust had behaved “irrationally” as its own investigation had shown that Mr Al-Obaidi had not put patients at risk and was not guilty of either gross misconduct or misconduct. It also criticised the Trust for making findings against him (in relation to disciplinary action against another doctor) without even speaking to him. This, the High Court said, “defied belief”.
It also said that restricting his duties was demeaning and humiliating and had affected Mr Al-Obaidi’s emotional well being and relationships with his colleagues.
Exclusion is a “nuclear weapon”
The Trust should not have excluded Mr Al-Obaidi. The High Court made it clear that excluding a doctor is only appropriate in the “most serious and extreme cases”. The Trust had allowed Mr Al-Obaidi to return to work (albeit on restricted duties) before the outcome of the investigation was known and this was clear evidence that he should not have been suspended at all.
The Trust argued that he could have interfered with witnesses (something that employers often allege without evidence to back it up). The High Court said this was “fanciful” and that Mr Al-Obaidi had a good reputation and should have been trusted not to talk to witnesses.
Role of Irwin Mitchell
Shazia Khan, an employment & professional discipline partner in the London office of Irwin Mitchell acted for Mr Al-Obaidi who has now returned to work.
Shazia can be contacted by email on Shazia.firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on 44 (0)207 400 8746.
Shazia comments: “I am delighted that we were able take quick action to enable Mr Al-Obaidi to return to a job which is clearly a vocational career for him. The Trust has been particularly obstructive towards my client and this was reflected in, what can only be described as, the scathing judgment of the High Court. I hope this Trust will reflect upon the judgment carefully and stop wasting public money on pursuing hopeless disciplinary cases against its staff."