EAST Lancashire hospital boss Rob Watson yesterday accused the consultant at the centre of an unfair dismissal case of caring neither about patient safety or his patients.

He was giving evidence at the start of the second week of a Manchester Employment tribunal to decide on Aditya Agrawal's claim he was wrongly sacked from his £70,000 a year job as a liver surgeon.


Mr Watson was responsible for devising the new emergency rota at the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General Hospitals that the 43-year-old claims were unsafe.

Mr Agrawal last week told Judge David Franey he had been unfairly dismissed by East Lancashire Hospitals Trust for blowing the whistle on dangerous working practices caused by the shift system and because of his Indian race.

He claimed the new rota had caused 'utter chaos' and led to at least one death and one unnecessary operation to be performed.

Mr Watson, a surgeon for 40 years and clinical director at the Trust since 2010, said the system had been 'recognised as a safe model of care' by the Care Quality Commission and other hospital trusts nationwide which had adopted it.

He told the tribunal he had developed serious concerns about Mr Agrawal's 'attitude and behaviour' and clinical performance.

Mr Watson accused the surgeon, suspended in 2011 and dismissed in July last year, of causing the death of a female patient with a poorly performed hernia operation and missing a cancer 'as big as a fist' during an exploratory procedure.

He also claimed Mr Agrawal:

* cancelled an operation on an 86-year-old, identified as Mr F, on a Friday afternoon to catch a train to London;

* refused to do Monday morning ward rounds required on the controversial new 'consultant of the day' rota;

* left a patient anaesthetised for 45 minutes on an operating table at Burnley General without explanation while other staff searched for him;

* held his hand to his face in a 'shocking and initimidating' way at the end of a meeting between the two;

* declined to come in and help a junior doctor perform a difficult operation to remove a knife from a patient's stomach when on call; and

* abused a junior doctor verbally about her competence after being asked to assist with unexpectedly complex gall bladder surgery.

Mr Watson denied Mr Agrawal's claims he was not told of the new emergency 'consultant of the day' rota when appointed in 2011 and that he had been dismissed for 'whistleblowing'.

He told the tribunal: "From the beginning of Mr Agrawal's appointment at East Lancashire Hospitals Trust, I never once thought he cared about patient safety.

"It never occurred to me once that Mr Agrawal even cared about his patients."

Mr Watson denied claims by Dr Agrawal's barrister Paul Gilroy QC that this meant his client was a 'danger' to patients and he had failed in his professional duty by not reporting this to senior colleagues on no less than eight occasions.

Mr Watson said: "You can be a good surgeon without caring for your patients or patient safety.

"You can still do a good job. It just means you are not a very nice person."

Mr Gilroy said Mr Agrawal denied raising his hand to Mr Watson.

He said all the meetings and email exchanges he had with Mr Agrawal were about the job rota, his pay and 'about him'.

Mr Watson said: "At no point did Mr Agrawal indicate he felt the 'consultant of the day' rota was putting the health of patients at risk."

He described a complaint on 15 counts about him to the General Medical Council from Dr Agrawal as 'a revenge attack on me as I had raised an internal concern about him'.

Mr Watson said he was cleared on all counts of standard of clinical care, issues around the new rota, allegations of bullying and harassment and his performance as clinical director leaving only justified criticism of his record keeping.

Following this 'monstrous, vindictive, cynical and nasty' referral, Mr Watson said he told then EHLT medical director Rineke Schram he 'felt the working relationship between myself and Mr Agrawal had broken down' and that he 'would not be able to work with him again'.

He told the tribunal: "I felt so strongly that if he were to come back to the department than I would need to leave the trust.

"I was aware that two of my consultant colleagues held similar views."