A Christian doctor went to an employment tribunal yesterday claiming he was sacked because he emailed a prayer to his colleagues. David Drew, 64, qualified 40 years ago and rose to become clinical director at the hospital where he worked.
But he said he was dismissed after failing to accept an order to ‘refrain from using religious references in his professional communications, verbal or written’.
Dr Drew accepts that he emailed a prayer by St Ignatius Loyola, the 16th century founder of the Jesuits, to colleagues at Walsall Manor Hospital three years ago to try to motivate the department.
He said he prefaced it with the words: ‘I find this a personal inspiration in my frail imperfect efforts to serve my patients, their families and our department.’
He said the email was welcomed by his colleagues. But he was later accused of sending an ‘unwelcome’ text message to a colleague on Christmas Day wishing him a ‘peaceful Christmas’.
The colleague, Rob Hodgkiss, replied with the word ‘likewise’, but a report by the hospital said: ‘While DD (David Drew) may regard such messages as benign, RH (Rob Hodgkiss) perceived them as aggressive and unwelcome intrusions into his private time.’
Dr Drew told the Birmingham tribunal the hospital trust never clarified why it told him not to use religious language at work, and that it was unable to provide further examples of his use of such phrases.
He said: ‘The allegation that I have forced my religion on to other people, that I am some kind of religious maniac, was made worse by the fact that they told me there was no need to understand what this is all about.
The tribunal heard his problems began after he raised concerns over a consultant who let a child with suspicious injuries go home, despite ‘serial warnings from other staff’.
The child was killed a week later by his stepfather, who later admitted manslaughter. In 2008 Dr Drew was stripped of his position as clinical director as a result of the dispute about the competence of the child’s consultant.
He was made aware of two incidents in 2009 when children were allegedly sexually assaulted by adult patients allowed to use ‘washing and toilet facilities’ on the children’s ward.
He said he wrote to the divisional director over the matter but ‘never had a satisfactory answer’. He was suspended for six weeks in 2009 after complaining about a ‘very rude nurse’.
After his text to Dr Hodgkiss that December, Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust set up an independent review which told him to stop making religious references.
Dr Drew, who lives in Sutton Coldfield with his wife Janet, 61, and attends a Baptist church, was finally dismissed three days before Christmas 2010 after a disciplinary hearing. The hospital cited a breakdown in trust.
The hearing continues.