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NHS doctor blew the whistle on medical equipment 'only fit for the bin'

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An NHS doctor who blew the whistle on medical equipment she considered 'only fit for the bin' has claimed that she was victimised before an employment tribunal in Inverness this week.

Dr Christine Paterson, 50, worked as a locum at the NHS Highland practice of Kinlochbervie and Scourie until May 2006.

She says that shortly after telling her manager that the practice electrocardiogram machine did not work and that drugs were out of date, she suffered various instances of victimisation and detriment, which culminated in her locum contract being cancelled.

Representing herself at the tribunal, Dr Paterson called the North West Sutherland primary care manager, Fiona Duff, 44, as a witness, who denied that the "public interest disclosures" had any bearing on the decision not to renew her locum contract or interview her for a permanent role at the practice.

Ms Duff told the tribunal that she asked Dr Paterson for a list of damaged equipment, which she never provided. As to the GP's locum contract, Ms Duff said there were a number of reasons why it was not renewed.

They included Dr Paterson's refusal to attend a medical incident in the Rhiconich Hotel at Kinlochbervie because "she was just coming out of the shower"; her failure to attend to a patient who Ms Duff thought needed to be sectioned because "she did not know what to do"; and a statement made by Sylvia MacKay of the North West Sutherland Care Alliance after a meeting of the local health partnership that there was "no confidence in the community for Dr Paterson".

Ms Duff conceded, however, that she was contacted eight days later by Graeme Wilde, then chairman of the local community council, who said the community had "every confidence in Dr Paterson and would be happy for her to stay on".

As to the reasons why she wasn't interviewed for the permanent post at the Kinlochbervie and Scourie practice, Ms Duff said Dr Paterson was on holiday on the dates the interviews were set. Asked why the dates couldn't have been rescheduled, she replied they "would have been difficult to rearrange".

Dr Paterson then suggested to Ms Duff: "The alleged legitimate reasons for getting rid of Dr Paterson were a smokescreen put up by yourself and others to cover up the real reason, which was whistleblowing."

Ms Duff replied: "Definitely not."

She said she had not received three handwritten letters from Dr Paterson highlighting concerns about out-of-date drugs and faulty equipment at the practice.

She said: "I've never seen these letters before."

Dr Paterson then asked her how the letters got into the NHS legal team's evidence folder when they did not come from her.

The tribunal continues.

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