‘Distasteful, if sometimes comedic’ is how the legal counsel for Dr Rosalind Ranson has described the evidence provided to a tribunal by the island’s Director of Public Health.
The tribunal panel themselves referred to Dr Henrietta Ewart’s testimony as ‘hostile almost to a fault regarding Dr Ranson’.
Oliver Segal, who represented Dr Ranson, highlighted in his comments that ‘despite it being a matter of record, Dr Ewart had denied her initial public health advice on Covid-19’ and that ‘Covid-19 was mild and similar to flu’.
The conduct of Dr Ewart fell under the spotlight during the tribunal where it was reported that on August 12 2021, Dr Ewart had told interim DHSC CEO Kathryn Magson, that Dr Ranson had not held a licence as a doctor during an earlier part of her career. The tribunal says this was a ‘misconception’.
It adds: ‘Much later, she had then complained to the General Medical Council about the evidence Dr Ranson had given to the Public Accounts Committee in 2021. The GMC had dismissed the complaint because Dr Ranson had been expressing no more than an opinion.’
During her evidence, Dr Ewart ‘denied ever having goodwill towards Dr Ranson’ or that she was ‘frustrated’ with her. The tribunal said this was ‘eyebrow-raising evidence’.
It added: ‘Her witness statement had nothing good to say about Dr Ranson. Other contemporaneous documents also contradicted this oral evidence. A substantial part of Dr Ewart’s witness statement, very prejudicial to Dr Ranson and of no probative assistance to the Tribunal, was struck-out by mutual agreement of Counsel.’
During her evidence, Dr Ewart was asked about her witness statement where she said Dr Ranson had a habit of ringing colleagues ‘late at night’. When cross-examined, Dr Ewart failed to provide a single example. However, after a brief adjournment she ‘then revealed one exchange of previously undisclosed text messages, held on her phone’.
The tribunal reports that on September 5 2020 Dr Ranson had phoned Dr Ewart but she didn’t answer. As a result, she texted her at 9.49pm asking a question regarding testing pathways.
This is that exchange as published in the report:
‘Dr Ranson: “Hello Henrietta has CT got a pathway for the scenario we have? I wanted to check because presumably the transport contact should be included in the CT given we don’t know when he became positive as he is asymptomatic. KR-R.” (The Tribunal interpreted this as abbreviation for Kind Regards – Rosalind).
Dr Ewart: “I’ve no idea what you are talking about or who you are.”
Dr Ranson: “It’s Rosalind Ranson.”
Dr Ewart then confirmed to the tribunal that: ‘I did not reply. At that point I blocked her number from my phone…’
The report goes on to say: ‘To the Tribunal, Dr Ewart’s indignant, proud and defiant tone was astonishing. The panel members could not understand why the response to a question about a Covid-19 situation during the evening warranted such rudeness to a fellow doctor who needed help. It was also extraordinary that Dr Ewart testified that when this message arrived, she professed or had pretended not to know who it was from. Then, when she was told, her reaction was so immediately hostile.’
It adds that to put this exchange in context, by this time, they had been working closely with each other since March and yet Dr Ewart denied knowing who was messaging her and then, as the tribunal says ‘made certain she would not be troubled by Dr Ranson again’.
Stop Badgering Me
The report says this wasn’t the first time that Dr Ewart demonstrated an ‘unpleasant attitude’ to Dr Ranson. On Saturday March 21 and Sunday 22, Dr Ranson tried to speak to Dr Ewart twice about modelling and information she needed ahead of a press conference about Covid but was shouted at with Dr Ewart telling Dr Ranson that it was her day off and to ‘stop badgering her’.
The tribunal says: ‘Dr Ewart’s behaviour was very out of step compared to the evidence in the Tribunal of the long hours, tireless devotion and enormous efforts that were being made within the ranks of the DHSC and from the politicians. In her evidence to the Tribunal, Dr Ewart denied any recollection of any such “badgering” conversation. The Tribunal found little of use to assist the Respondent or the Tribunal in either her witness statement or her evidence in person.’
It later adds: ‘The Tribunal accept that her [Dr Ewart] witness statement was hostile almost to a fault regarding Dr Ranson – probably for good and bad reasons. Her display in the witness box in parts displayed unreasonable malice. As mentioned much earlier, seven paragraphs of her witness statement of hearsay evidence were so prejudicial (and irrelevant to the issues) that they had to be struck out by consent of both Counsel.’
The tribunal also notes that there was some confusion over who was the island’s top doctor, Dr Ranson or Dr Ewart.
The report says that Dr Ewart ‘did not accept Dr Ranson’s status as the island’s most senior doctor’. It adds: ‘Unlike Dr Ranson, Dr Ewart had access to the Minister and sat on Gold in the command structure plus on the Chief Officers Group (COG). The Tribunal was satisfied that the roles of Dr Ewart and Dr Ranson were different.’
The tribunal also queried if Covid hadn’t happened the relationship between the two senior doctors would’ve been any better but that as events panned out, their relationship was ‘always uneasy’. This was not helped by the new role that Dr Ranson was fulfilling and Dr Ewart being off-island at the start of the pandemic. The latter of these events left Dr Ranson to appear alongside Howard Quayle at early press briefings.
However, as Dr Ewart took a more prominent role and the island followed Public Health England’s strategy, which was opposed by the island’s doctors, the tribunal said this meant tensions between the two doctors was inevitable.