Ashington child psychiatrist takes NHS trust to tribunal

A CHILD psychiatrist is claiming health chiefs belittled her after she blew the whistle on failures to safeguard a youngster suffering abuse.

A CHILD psychiatrist is claiming health chiefs belittled her after she blew the whistle on failures to safeguard a youngster suffering abuse.

Dr Antoinette Geoghegan has taken her employers, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, to an employment tribunal after her relationship with managers broke down last year.

The consultant psychiatrist joined the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAHMS) team in 2000, providing psychiatric treatment for vulnerable youngsters in the Ashington area of Northumberland.

The doctor told the tribunal in Newcastle yesterday how she raised concerns about a young girl who was discharged from the service.

Dr Geoghegan decided outside of her working role to meet with the girl’s parent – who was experiencing “high levels of anxiety” – in order to investigate.

Subsequently the girl attended another session and confided she was being subjected to abuse by a family member.

The following day the perpetrator was arrested and has since faced justice.

The doctor said: “My involvement averted further serious harm to the patient and her younger sibling.”

She told the hearing, however, she believed the move caused her to be treated with suspicion and her concerns were “belittled” by colleagues.

The professional, on long-term sick leave due to work-related stress, is also claiming the trust failed to make reasonable adjustments to help her deal with her mental health issues and return to work.

Dr Geoghegan said her workload had become unmanageable as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) was increasingly recognised and diagnosed among youngsters.

The panel also heard staff in the department were not replaced, that changes to the NHS structure meant consultants faced being on call and treating teenagers up to the age of 18, as opposed to just up to 16.

Dr Geoghegan said she was “overwhelmed” and considered working arrangements to be a “recipe for an unsafe service”.

She described her experience working for the trust as “totally demoralising” but hopes to return to her position.

The panel was also told Dr Geoghegan had been referred to the National Clinical Assessment Service over concerns about her performance.

She said: “This was a further blow to my confidence and sense of safety at work.”

During cross examination, however, the psychiatrist was accused of misinterpreting trust chiefs’ attempts to accommodate her needs as confrontational.

Dr Geoghegan is seeking compensation from the NHS on the grounds she suffered detriments due to work-related stress and the events which followed her decision to blow the whistle.

The hearing, expected to last into next week, continues.

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