A heart surgeon barred from working at an NHS hospital after a bullying allegation has won an initial stage of a High Court fight.
Professor Marjan Jahangiri took legal action after being excluded by bosses at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London, pending a disciplinary investigation.
Mr Justice Nicklin on Tuesday ruled in her favour, following a High Court hearing in London, and said he was not satisfied that exclusion was necessary.
He described Professor Jahangiri as a “leading heart surgeon”, said she had pioneered a form of surgery and had a “1.2% mortality rate” compared to a UK average of “7-15%”.
The judge said Professor Jahangiri had complained of being the victim of a “campaign”.
I am delighted with today’s judgment and very much look forward to returning to my patientsProfessor Marjan Jahangiri
But he indicated that litigation was at early stage and said he could not make “any such findings”.
He said “any such findings” could only be made after a “proper consideration” of evidence at a trial.
Lawyers said Professor Jahangiri had made a breach of contract complaint which had yet to be analysed.
They said further hearings were expected.
“I am delighted with today’s judgment and very much look forward to returning to my patients,” said Professor Jahangiri outside court.
“My priority, as it has always been, is combining excelled patient care with research and training.”
She added: “I am devoted to the NHS.”
Jacqueline Totterdell, chief executive ar St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are disappointed by the judgment issued today, but understand and respect it.
“We welcome that this ruling is not about guilt or exoneration and the judge made no finding on the facts being investigated.
“He has said that the exclusion process was not appropriate, but has allowed the trust to continue its investigation into very serious issues raised.”
Mr Justice Nicklin said an internal investigation had begun after a hospital boss received an email from an employee in March.
The employee had alleged that Professor Jahangiri had “shouted at a nurse”, “prioritised a private patient over an NHS patient”, and “given evidence in relation to alleged bullying”.
That allegation had been made in the wake of wider concerns.
Research had indicated a rise in the mortality rate amongst patients being treated at the hospital’s cardiac surgery unit.
Bosses were also concerned about the working relationship between the six heart surgeons in the unit, and about an “allegedly dysfunctional environment”.
They had asked a human resources consultant to stage a review and thought that the employee who made the bullying allegation about Professor Jahangiri might give evidence during the review process.
They had excluded Professor Jahangiri in early August after she was accused of “indirectly” approaching the employee.
Bosses had been concerned that there had been an attempt to “influence a potential witness” involved in the review.
Professor Jahangiri denied the allegation.
She had also been told, in a letter, not to “discuss these matters” with the media.
Lawyers told the judge that hospital bosses were happy for that restriction to be relaxed.