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Continuing condemnation of the SEB by the Complaints Board

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Following the Complaints Board’s second publication which continued to condemn the conduct of the States Employment Board (SEB), Dr Alwitry issued a press release. 

Dr Alwitry - source: CircleHealth

Image: Dr Alwitry
​Source: Circle Health

Extracts of that Press Release are below...

“The Complaints Board’s findings, which were delivered in July 2016, were unanimous and extended to a detailed 150 page damning report.  The SEB and the Minister for Health and Social Services issued almost immediate rebuttals in the press, which were heavily criticised by the Complaints Board.  The SEB then filed a response to the Complaints Board’s report which maintained a rejection of the Complaints Board’s very thorough and extensive findings.

The Complaints Board has now issued a further report in response to the “deeply unsatisfactory response” from the SEB and described the case as “one of the worst examples of a public authority disregarding fundamental principles of fairness and contract law that this Board has seen in the long collective experience of the three members.”  Further, the Complaints Board stated that the “fact that the SEB and the Hospital apparently cannot grasp this basic point is deeply worrying” and something “for which they ought to be censured.”

Spurious allegations against Dr Alwitry that he had raised patient safety concerns for purely personal gain were “unhesitatingly” rejected by the Complaints Board who held that such concerns “should have been properly investigated rather than dismissed out of hand (as they were)”

Reliance by the SEB on an investigation by the former Solicitor General, Advocate Howard Sharp QC, was heavily criticised and the Complaints Board held that “we do not see that he was as probing in his questioning as we would have expected” and “his report and views were not of great assistance to us”. The Complaints Board were also satisfied that the former Solicitor General’s report was “not reliable or soundly-based”.  Further, the Complaints Board stated that “we thought and still think is obvious, namely that it is difficult to see how, in such circumstances of this case, an inquiry by the former Solicitor General into the circumstances of Dr Alwitry’s ‘recruitment’ could be seen to be independent by the public in general” and, where the former Solicitor General also acted as a legal adviser to the SEB in relation to the Complaints Board’s report, that this was “a remarkable state of affairs.”

Indeed the SEB’s defensive reliance upon the former Solicitor General’s report as being independent, whilst rejecting outright the clear findings of the truly independent States Complaints Board, begs the question whether the SEB have or ever had any interest in a truly independent review of their decision to “sack this bloke before he gets here”.

The Complaints Board referred to the evidence before it as demonstrating “overwhelming that only one conclusion could reasonably have been reached” and that “senior members of the Hospital had proceeded on the basis of beliefs that had no reasonable foundation in fact or had reached conclusions which would appear to be, in public law terms, perverse – i.e. decision to which no reasonable person in their position properly directing themselves could reasonably have come” and that the “foregoing is so basic that it should not really need spelling out, certainly not to a public body or its advisers.”

The SEB’s purported criticism of the findings made by the Complaints Board received swift and comprehensive rebuttals at every level.  In response to new issues that the SEB sought to raise, the Complaints Board replied that “Regurgitating a one-sided view, based on the recollections and subjective views of those who participated in the Kangaroo court to which Mr Alwitry was subjected does not assist matters and is not an appropriate response to the matters raised by the Board.  Indeed, it strongly suggests that, even now, the SEB and the Hospital have not grasped just how appallingly they treated Mr Alwitry or that there is an urgent need to address the obvious flaws in the system that allowed Mr Alwitry to be treated in this way and then to close ranks to defend such a fundamentally flawed decision.”  The Complaints Board were also left with the “very strong impression that the Hospital, the SEB and certain key individuals have been mouthing the mantra for a very long time now and it is time they stopped doing so”; the reference to “the mantra” being the all too ready citation of an alleged breakdown of trust as a reason for an unwarranted dismissal.

As set out in the Complaints Board’s latest report, the SEB and the Hospital’s inability to accept responsibility “only reinforces our conclusion and recommendation that there is a systemic flaw which allowed and continues to allow senior members of staff and politicians to believe that treating Mr Alwitry in the way that he was is acceptable in a modern society.  It is not.  It never would be.”

The SEB’s reluctance to take ownership of its mistakes and accept liability for clear breaches of contract leave Dr Alwitry with no choice but to seek justice through the Courts.  There has been much expense (most of it public) already spent on this matter in terms of investigations, hearings, reports and legal costs. The SEB has, at public expense, sought to resist at every turn Dr Alwitry’s attempts to discern the reasons for his dismissal. In light of the SEB’s continuing intransigence, such expense now looks set to rise substantially. As the Complaints Board recognized, Dr Alwitry is a victim of the establishment of the Hospital and the SEB and an outdated, instinctive tendency within those institutions to circle the wagons in defence of indefensible decisions. While the Complaints Board’s findings may help employees and employers going forward with regards to employment procedures, Dr Alwitry is yet to be compensated at all for losses he has sustained and for unjustly seeing his unblemished career tarnished because he sought to improve the Hospital’s standing and the care it provides for the Island’s patients.  This was recognised by the Complaints Board and has been ignored, wrongly, by the SEB.

The Complaints Board’s findings are uncompromising in their rejection that patient safety concerns were not appropriately raised and that the former Solicitor General’s investigation could be considered independent.  These issues may give rise to separate investigations by other public bodies or Crown appointed officers which Dr Alwitry will support and assist with.  The SEB’s refusal to accept justified criticisms by the Complaints Board of conduct in this case should be of deep concern to the relevant regulatory bodies.”

Further to our previous blog, we provide links below to the publications of the States of Jersey Complaints Board (which deals with complaints about a decision or administration process by a department of the States) relating to its findings and criticisms of the conduct of the States Employment Board (“SEB”). 

The States Assembly website describes the SEB as “the employer of all public employees in Jersey and is responsible for fixing the terms and conditions of these employees.  It is chaired by the Chief Minister and brings together 2 members who are Ministers or Assistant Ministers and 2 members who are not."

You can read more about the Alwitry case in another blog on the subject.

As mentioned in this blog the States has been asked to decide whether they are of the opinion that they have no confidence in the SEB.  This proposition, filed by Deputy Higgins and due to be heard on 31st January 2017, can be found by clicking the link below:

Vote of No Confidence: States of Employment Board

Read in full the publications from the Complaints Board by clicking the links below:

Link to the Complaints Board’s publications  - Presented to the States on 4th July 2016 by the Privileges and Procedures

Link to the Complaints Board’s publications  - Presented to the States on 2nd December 2016 by the Privileges and Procedures Committee.