Hospital Dr News

Consultant “didn’t break data protection rules”

A senior diabetes consultant who was sacked for gross misconduct after faxing patient records from her hospital to a community clinic has been exonerated by the GMC.

The South Warwickshire General Hospitals Trust (SWGHT) accused Dr Shirine Boardman of breaching patient confidentiality when she sent the names and contact details of more than 80 diabetes patients to her secretary at the Apnee Sehat NHS clinic in Leamington Spa.

Boardman’s aim was to invite the patients to a structured education programme to help them manage their diabetes. She was acting in according with NICE guidance. At the time all trusts had a statutory requirement to provide this patient education.

The award winning Apnee Sehat clinic (meaning “our health” in Punjabi) was a pilot service set up by Warwickshire Primary Care Trust to provide clinical care and help to disadvantaged members of the Asian community. Boardman led the establishment of the project in 2007 as part of her employment contract with Warwick Hospital.

But the SWGHT complained that Boardman made an unauthorised transfer of confidential data from the trust in breach of GMC guidance, the Data Protection Act and the trust’s data protection policy.

The case was sent to the Information Commissioner for an alleged criminal breach of the Data Protection Act in July 2008. Shortly afterwards Boardman was sacked. The decision was later upheld by an employment tribunal.

But the Information Commissioner dropped the case and the GMC has now scrapped a fitness to practise hearing saying that Boardman acted “solely to benefit patients”.

Dr Keith Brent, deputy chairman of the BMA’s consultants committee, said: “There seems never to have been any question that Dr Boardman was anything other than a good clinician providing good care to her patients.”

Dr Sue Roberts, former government diabetes tsar, comented: “The dismissal of Dr Boardman was fundamentally unreasonable in that it disregarded good medical practice in the treatment of diabetes.”

Boardman, who has four clinical excellence awards and has won four national awards for her work, said she had been shocked by the speed with which she had been sacked.

It has taken her two years to do the research to understand the NHS data protection laws, to obtain information from the trust through Freedom of Information requests and to get the right legal experts and witnesses to help her fight her case.

“I don’t think in medical school or specialist training anybody ever told me the kind of trouble we could get into as doctors. The minute something goes wrong it’s enormously important to get the right advice from the right people because a lot could have been done to save me before I was dismissed,” she said.

Peter Bottomley, the Conservative MP for Worthing West, has raised Boardman’s case in Parliament and is calling for the individuals at SWGHT who made the complaint to account for their actions. If this does not happen he says he will be pressing health secretary Andrew Lansley to conduct a review.

He would also like the case to be investigated by the Equalities Commission. He said: “It is now clear Dr Boardman was right and they were wrong and their allegations and smears were unjustified. In my experience no male or no white consultant has ever been treated like this.”

A trust spokesman said: “The trust’s actions were in the best interests of patients as the breach of patients’ confidential information is a serious matter and one which patients themselves also take very seriously.”

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4 Responses to “Consultant “didn’t break data protection rules””

  1. Harri says:

    Time and time again unfair treatment, bullying and harassment with a racial flavour occurs in the NHS conducted more often than not by jobsworth NHS managers abetted by jealous medical colleagues: for a doctor of Dr Boardman’s calibre to be treated like this while the so-called managers try to get away with it reiterates the statement of Mr Bottomley to have the matter investigated by the Equalities commission. Not long ago a Dr Nargun at St George’s was suspended and reinstated but only after taking the Trust to court.
    So much of time and effort is wasted not to mention the enormous amounts of money spent by Trusts that it would be only fair that the concerned Chief Executives and all in the Trust Board should be forced to contribute to the Trust’s expenses out of their own salaries where it is established that their actions were in the wrong. This also calls for the Heath Secretary to justify why these umpteen managers exist drawing salaries which their jobs never justify? Britain is in deep financial trouble and jettisoning the bulk of file pushing NHS managers be undertaken mercilessly.

  2. Mark says:

    SWGHT collectively didn’t persecute and sack Dr Boardman – the decision to pursue this was probably taken by one individual, hereafter called The Fool. Dr Boardman needs to be reinstated, with backdated pay and The Fool needs to be sacked.

  3. Hafiz says:

    Mr Bottomley’s call to have this matter investigated by the Equalities Commisson is right and entirely justifiable. One can’t help but wonder that whoever took the decision to dismiss Dr Boardman used this questionable excuse to get at her for whatever reasons.

  4. SonoView says:

    This emphasises the point that all consultants must be in a union – the HCSA or the BMA. I am still frequently astounded to find colleaguess that are in neither.

    Once the brown stuff hits the fan, for whatever reason, if you are not in a union you are on your own and that is not a good place to be !

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