NHS '˜overreacted' to harassment allegations, says surgeon

A surgeon who was reprimanded by bosses for gifting a pair of stockings to a colleague has hit back in a bid to restore patient confidence in his department and labelled the investigation an 'over-reaction'.

Mr Larkin, who is an RAF squadron leader, said the claims have been damaging to the department. Picture: Contributed

Edward Larkin also claims bosses at NHS Lothian “invented” a training scheme in the board’s values – which staff at his department will have to complete – after his case was made public.

It emerged NHS Lothian wants staff at the Maxillofacial department at St John’s Hospital in Livingston to attend a training session on the health board’s values following an investigation into six claims against Mr Larkin.

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The allegations were made by an administrator at the hospital in May 2015 who Mr Larkin said made the claims after he told her to stop sending messages of a sexual nature to his mobile phone.

Four of the claims against the consultant, who is also an RAF squadron leader awarded a medal for service in Afghanistan, were dismissed but two were upheld. They were that he gave a junior doctor a pair of stockings and lipstick as a Secret Santa gift and him displaying a “nude female” photo in his office along with a Farmers’ Wives Help for Heroes calendar.

The consultant met a senior official at the health board last November when he was told the claims were being dealt with as an “unintentional breach of policy”.

Mr Larkin, 59, claims he was told no further action would be taken and learned the woman who made the complaints had been relocated to another hospital.

However this week, when news of the investigation emerged, documents were released that showed the health board wants all staff in Mr Larkin’s department, which operates on patients with injuries and disease in the head and neck, to be trained on values.

Mr Larkin said this has been “hugely damaging” and revealed a number of patients had contacted St John’s with concerns about staff as a result.

The consultant said: “I was told months ago this issue had been dealt with. To learn our department is being subject to training has come as a total surprise. At no stage has there ever been any suggestion of a cultural problem within the department and there has been nothing to that effect in correspondence made by any member of the team and certainly no mandate has been issued for any form of ‘cultural training’. This seems to be to be a total over-reaction.

“It seems like I have been painted black and as a result the department has too. And yet all of this relates to claims made by someone who was sending me inappropriate texts. I have had a difficult two years of personal harassment from this complainant and my employer is well aware of this.

“Our patients need to have confidence in those who treat them so it is worrying there have been phone calls to the ward from patients. At no stage has our competence ever come under question.

“It is just ridiculous that political correctness, or rather the complexities of modern society, led to this. NHS Lothian’s HR department has shown a lack of competence over this issue, which to my mind has now got out of hand.”

Mr Larkin, who also works as a consultant at the private Spire hospitals in Edinburgh, admits to giving a junior
doctor a lipstick and stockings as a joke gift and says she put the stockings on the staff wall with a note saying “for Jan ward rounds”.

The father-of-two also says he did have a small picture of a painted naked woman,
pictured from the back, on his desk and that it had been there for several years. He has since removed the Help for Heroes calendar the woman complained about.

The consultant said: “Doctors are vulnerable now. More and more people are able to take a swipe at us. It is worrying that officials are more pre-occupied with process than ever.”

Jim Crombie, chief officer of acute services at NHS Lothian, said: “We will not discuss the detail of this internal and confidential process.”