The General Medical Council (GMC) has finally abandoned a two-year investigation into a whistleblowing doctor five months after he was emphatically cleared of any wrongdoing by an employment tribunal. 

The regulator interviewed up to 24 witnesses during its probe into leading heart surgeon Kevin Beatt, who was "maliciously" referred to the GMC by Croydon Health Services NHS Trust after it sacked him for raising concerns about patient safety.

Croydon Employment Tribunal ruled in October that Dr Beatt, who led Croydon University Hospital's cardiac catheter laboratory until 2012, was unfairly dismissed for whistleblowing. 

It also found no evidence of the gross misconduct for which he was sacked, and backed the doctor's suggestion that he had been referred "to punish" him for criticising the trust's management at an inquest into the death of a patient who died during a routine operation.

But the GMC continued to investigate the doctor, despite being made aware of the damning judgment, which concluded Dr Beatt had been fired amid a calculated attempt to ruin his reputation for flagging safety concerns, workplace bullying and failing equipment.

From January: Health secretary urged to launch inquiry as tribunal rejects appeal over unfair sacking of whisteblower

The regulator drew up a list of 24 witnesses and continued interviewing them even after an appeals tribunal threw out the trust's bid to have the ruling overturned in January. 

The ongoing probe made Dr Beatt essentially unemployable because he would have been obliged to tell any prospective employers he was under investigation.

After learning the investigation had finally been dropped this week, he said: "It is welcome, but they don't give any explanation or apology or justify taking nearly three years over the matter. 

"After I sent them the tribunal findings they continued the investigation, I think rather arrogantly, saying that they conduct their own investigations even though they're not a judicial body.

"I suppose maybe due to the pressure and the general publicity of how they treat whistleblowers, someone has said 'you better drop this'.

"It seems a complete waste of public money.

"Why don't they do some sort of preliminary investigation to see whether there is a case to investigate before going and interviewing 24 witnesses?"

In August, the GMC commissioned a review of the way it deals with doctors who raise concerns in the public interest.

Sir Anthony Cooper, a retired Court of Appeal judge, is expected to report his findings in early 2015.

Dr Beatt now wants senior figures at Croydon Health Services to be investigated by the GMC, which he said was "wilfully negligent" in failing to pursue NHS directors.

He is considering raising his concerns in a statement to Parliament's Health Committee.

He said: "Unless you hold people to account, nothing is going to change.

"It is quite clear that the GMC does not take any case against medical directors, who are registered with the GMC and subject to their code of conduct. 

"The GMC are wilfully negligent in not doing so.

"It leads to the detriment to the patient, when the purpose of the GMC is to protect patients.

"Many of the things that go on could not go on unless a medical director is involved and supports it, and that is certainly true in Croydon."

The GMC declined to comment because it does not discuss individual cases.

Croydon Health Services is still pursuing its appeal against the tribunal's judgement, despite the Employment Appeals Tribunal concluding it had no prospect of success.

A remedy hearing to establish the amount of compensation the trust should pay Dr Beatt had been scheduled for April.

But the hearing was postponed because the trust's £5,000-a-day lawyer is representing another NHS whistleblower, Raj Mattu, in a similar case against Coventry Hospital the same week.

The Croydon Guardian revealed in January that four current or former Croydon Health Services directors had been referred to the Care Quality Commission for assessment against its "fit and proper person" test. 

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