• Doctor was recorded making unguarded comments after a meeting
  • He bemoaned ‘sub-continent elements’ as ‘not clear thinkers’
  • The gastrointestinal specialist was sacked from his hospital job
  • But a professional standards panel found he is not racially prejudiced

Richard Spillett for MailOnline

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Dr Peter Hale was recorded referring to three Pakistani junior doctors and one Indian medic as ‘sub-continent elements’, but has been cleared of racism

A top NHS surgeon branded a racist after he referred to a group of Asian colleagues as ‘sub-continent elements’ has won a three-year fight to continue practising medicine 

Clinical director Peter Hale, 58, had made his candid comments after a stormy staff meeting about rotas in which three Pakistani junior doctors and one Indian medic claimed they he was treating them ‘like slaves.’

When the four men left a room, Mr Hale was said to have offered to place a £50 bet that one would agree to work a particular shift only to then ‘fly to Nigeria and that there would be a problem with the plane coming back.’ 

But unbeknown to Mr Hale, his unguarded remarks were being taped after a mobile phone which had been recording the meeting was left switched on. 

The device – which belonged to one of the Asian doctors – caught Mr Hale making further comments including: ‘Some of these sub-continent elements; what you end up with is long term resentments and grievances and all sorts of stuff. They are their own worst enemies.

‘They’re not clear thinkers. They’re an unbelievable group of people. Vile actually.’

When the tape recording came to light, Mr Hale was reported to bosses at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust and he was later sacked for gross misconduct from Royal Sussex County Hospital.

Investigators claimed the surgeon’s remarks could be considered racially discriminatory as he had referred to an Australian colleague as a man who ‘never lets you down and will go a mile to make sure he helps.’

The four Asian doctors Khawaja Zia, Ved Prakash, Vivek Kaul and Christi Swaminathan subsequently sued the NHS trust for racial discrimination claiming they had been under-paid and under-promoted due to their race and treated as ‘slave labour.’ 

The incident happened while Dr Hale was working at Brighton’s Royal Sussex County Hospital

They also claimed they had taken offence to Mr Hale using the phrase ‘three-line whip’ to ask them to come to a meeting but lost their case.

At the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in Manchester Mr Hale from Hassocks, West Sussex, an expert in gastrointestinal conditions, faced being banned from practising medicine but a disciplinary panel said the surgeon was not racially prejudiced and no warning was needed.

The tribunal heard members of the group of Asian doctors had planned to covertly record the meeting.

Several medical colleagues had spoken up for Mr Hale describing him as ‘transparent, robust, clear-sighted, trustworthy and professional’ and claiming ‘bad behaviour ‘ of several junior doctors was well known amongst staff in the hospital.

The professional standards panel decided his comments were not racially prejudiced and no warning was needed

Panel chairman Mr Sean Ell told Mr Hale: ‘Your comments followed a heated and antagonistic meeting at which the complainants made a number of unprofessional and personal comments which included accusations of racism and slavery.

‘Whatever their grievances may have been, they were not appropriate comments to have made at that meeting. Their conduct at the meeting followed similar behaviour towards you and other staff members over a period of time.

‘The Tribunal was satisfied that against that background your comments were not motivated by racial prejudice, but rather in response to the conduct of the complainants both during and prior to the meeting. Although your comments were derogatory and dismissive, the Tribunal is satisfied that they were not racially motivated.’

Dr Hale admitted making the comments but denied racial prejudice.

During their 2015 tribunal which cost over £130,000, the four Asian doctors claimed that, due to their race, they were repeatedly given fixed-term contracts, overlooked for training opportunities and worked unpaid overtime. But it emerged at least 23 other doctors were also on similar non-standard terms and conditions.

The case was thrown out after the doctors were found to have secretly recorded another private meeting about the case between the trust and its lawyers. They were each ordered to pay £17,000 in costs.

It is understood the trust has spent more than £1.4 million defending employment tribunals involving race relations over the past decade. It is believed the vast majority of these involve a small number of repeat claimants and the trust has lost one.

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