- Mike Viggers
Reinstate Dr Vivienne Lyfar-Cissé
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust Sacks Race Equality Whistleblower
New Trust Board uses unlawful process to dismiss race equality lead, who highlighted race equality issues to the Care Quality Commission
We call upon the Trust Board to reinstate Dr Lyfar-Cissé with immediate effect
Dr Vivienne Lyfar-Cissé
Dr Lyfar-Cissé has been employed by Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust (BSUH) since 1983. She worked for many years as a Principal Clinical Biochemist. In 2007, she won an Employment Tribunal (ET) against the Trust for racial discrimination. A second ET in 2008 for racial discrimination and victimisation, arose from the behaviour of the Trust after the first ET outcome and was settled out of court. Following this, the Chief Executive at the time apologised publicly to Dr Lyfar-Cissé and acknowledged that the Trust was institutionally racist. Dr Lyfar-Cissé was then invited by the Chief Executive to lead the race equality agenda at BSUH, which she has done ever since, most recently in the role of Associate Director of Transformation, leading race equality strategies for staff and patients. She is also the Chair of the BME Network at BSUH and of the national NHS BME Network.
As Chair of the BME Network, Dr-Lyfar-Cissé has regularly brought to the attention of the Care Quality Commission (CQC, the regulator of hospitals), the race issues within the Trust. This resulted in strong criticism of the Trust by CQC in their August 2016 Inspection Report and contributed to the Trust being placed in special measures.
On 28 June 2017 Dr Lyfar-Cissé was dismissed from her role, by an unjust process which would prevent her from continuing to highlight the institutional racism in the organisation and which is a clear case of victimisation.
Actions of the New Trust Board
The Trust Board for Western Sussex Hospitals (WSH) NHS Foundation Trust (referred to here as the new Trust Board) began an agreement from 1 April 2017 whereby they would lead BSUH Trust for a minimum of three years. One of the first actions of the new Trust Board upon taking up leadership at BSUH was to inform Dr Lyfar-Cissé that she was being investigated under the Fit and Proper Person Regulations (FPPR) in line with the Health and Social Care Act 2008. This is despite the fact that the FPPR do not apply to her as she is neither an executive director; a non-executive director; an associate director who is a member of the Trust Board; nor does she perform functions equivalent of similar to the functions of a director. Dr. Lyfar-Cissé is not in attendance at Board meetings or any Board Committees.
BSUH's policy and processes concerning the FPPR, which makes clear the regulation only applies to executive and non-executive directors has been found to be compliant by CQC. Despite this fact the new Trust Board do not feel that BSUH's approach is compliant and have placed on record that things should be done in the way it is done at WSH whereby the regulation applies to everyone with director in their job title.
The difference in the interpretation of the regulation has never been tested by law as Dr Lyfar-Cissé is the first person ever to be dismissed since the FPPR was introduced in the NHS in November 2014 following the mid-Staffordshire enquiry.
The new Trust Board's reason for invoking the regulation is that Dr Lyfar-Cissé had been found guilty of serious misconduct following a number of false allegations against her over a period of three years, many of which were never upheld at the disciplinary stage.
The Allegations and Unjust Findings are that Dr Lyfar-Cissé:
Sent an email to BME Network members in 2014 regarding a grievance raised against her by a BME member. Although she had made the CEO and HR aware that she planned to send the email and did not name the person involved she was found guilty of bullying, harassment and victimisation.
Refused to take part in a second investigation by a QC, which cost the Trust over £21,000 of public money, because her evidence concerning grievances raised by the BME member above had already been made available by way of a first investigation and an appeal at that stage. However, she was found guilty of failing to comply with a reasonable management instruction.
Told a white British senior manager that she despaired of working with white British senior managers; this was taken out of context as it had followed on from a conversation between them about a previous white British director's comments that the treatment she had received previously from the Trust was not just racist but the actions of a white supremacist Trust Board. Despite this she was found guilty of discrimination and harassment because she had referred to the manager's colour and she was told she could criticise the managers, but could not mention their colour or race.
Although the investigations had found her guilty of a further 12 charges related to the two individuals mentioned above she was found not guilty of any of these charges at a disciplinary hearing.
A disciplinary outcome concerning all the matters above was made available on 11 November 2016 and the sanction was a final written warning for 12 months. An appeal did not change the outcome and the internal process was concluded on 4 January 2017.
Dr Lyfar-Cissé is currently pursuing the above matters via Employment Tribunal. In addition another ET claim for victimisation, which was upheld by the Employment Appeal Tribunal, will be reheard by the ET later this year.