Dr Nigel Speight loses his victimisation and age discrimination tribunal

(The ME Association is proud to have Dr Speight on board as our paediatric medical adviser)

From the Newcastle Journal, 13 November 2010.

A TOP doctor was not the target for a smear campaign sparked by his claims of discrimination, a court has ruled.

Dr Nigel Speight had hoped to extend his career beyond normal retirement age in 2007 but his application to County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust was turned down.

When the consultant paediatrician told trust bosses he would take a claim of age discrimination against them, colleagues were allegedly asked to discredit him through a complaint made to the General Medical Council (GMC).

The allegations – which the trust denied – were made at an employment tribunal in Newcastle last month, where Dr Speight was claiming a five-figure sum in damages.

Dr Speight, 68, from Durham City, told the three-man tribunal panel he was “shocked and upset” at his treatment after “long, loyal and unblemished” service.

He had claimed County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust’s medical director Mr Robert Aitken “actively solicited” complaints about him from consultant colleagues to form the basis of a dossier referred to the GMC in March last year.

But in its official ruling, the tribunal rejected Dr Speight’s claims of victimisation and age discrimination.

The judgement concluded: “We do not consider that Mr Aitken trawled or solicited information to justify Dr Speight’s referral to the GMC.

“It is clear that a group of Dr Speight’s colleagues had criticisms of him, which obliged Mr Aitken to refer the matter.

“That Dr Speight had to endure the GMC ordeal may have been unnecessary, unfair, unjust and many other things – from his perspective – but it was not, we are satisfied, by reason of his decision to pursue an employment tribunal. His complaints of victimisation must fail.

“The claimant is clearly a practitioner of considerable experience and ability, who excites in many colleagues and patients and their families considerable admiration and praise. He has clearly been controversial at times, and equally has had his detractors. We sympathise with him for having to endure the GMC referral, the effects of which we do not underestimate.”

Dr Speight applied to extend his post at the hospital in July 2007 when he reached normal retirement age, but his application was turned down as the trust tried to make savings to its budget.

Last night Dr Speight said he was “disappointed” at the outcome.

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust declined to comment on the tribunal ruling.