Top surgeon says board overreacted to sex pest complaints

A TOP 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 'overreaction'.

Friday, 15th April 2016, 5:41 am
Updated Friday, 15th April 2016, 5:54 am
RAF squadron leader Edward Larkin was awarded a medal for service in Afghanistan. Picture: comp

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.

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.

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Four of the claims against the consultant – who is also an RAF squadron leader awarded a medal for serving 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 that he displayed a “nude female” photo in his office along with a Farmers’ Wives Help for Heroes calendar.

The consultant met with 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 which 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 had been “hugely damaging” and revealed a number of patients had contacted St John’s with concerns about staff as a result.

The consultant, whose wife is a GP, 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 in effect in correspondence made to 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 overreaction.

“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.

“It is 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 the city, admits to giving a junior doctor a lipstick and stockings as a joke gift and says she put the underwear 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 which the woman had complained about.

The other allegations made to NHS Lothian and the General Medical Council, which regulates health staff in the UK, accused him of having images of personal nudity, alcoholism and inappropriate patient examination. They were all dropped.

The consultant, who has worked in Edinburgh since 2005, 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. What next – will we be banned from giving colleagues a bottle of wine?”

Jim Crombie, Chief Officer of Acute Services at NHS Lothian, said: “We will not discuss the detail of this internal and confidential process.

“Our priority is to provide safe, effective care for patients and to support staff in doing this.”