IT was May Hendry’s job to alert the health board to potential dental fraud and misconduct in order to protect both patients and the public purse.

In doing so however, she became the target of “untrue vexacious complaints” by two Ayrshire dentists suspected of wrongdoing, and was increasingly isolated as senior NHS executives closed ranks to “appease” them.

Read more: Dentist faces huge legal bill despite tribunal victory

Her victory at the employment tribunal may not have come with a cash windfall, but Dr Hendry says she takes “real solace” in a judgement that was so damning of the health board. And it certainly was.

John Burns, NHS Ayrshire and Arran’s chief executive, “failed to protect [Dr Hendry] from untrue allegations of dishonesty made by Michael Morrow and his solicitor when he knew these allegations to be untrue”.

Amid concerns over misclaiming at Donald Morrison’s practice, Mr Burns met with Mr Morrison, his wife, and the Dental Practice Committee chairman “without a notetaker being present”.

Alison Graham, the health board’s medical director, “tried to take over” the investigation into Mr Morrison’s practice “either to conceal the finding of £300,000 misclaimed, or to protect Donald Morrison with whom she had a conflict of interest”.

Read more: NHS Ayrshire whistleblower takes gagging clause case to Scottish Parliament

The judgement noted that both Mr Burns and Ms Graham were “guarded” in their evidence to the tribunal in contrast to Dr Hendry’s “honest, straightforward and candid manner”.

Taxpayers and patients rely on NHS executives to manage resources efficiently and fairly. Yet here was a scenario where they gave "preferential treatment" to dentists implicated in wrongdoing while doing nothing to stop them slandering Dr Hendry.

This sort of dysfunction is not unique to NHS Ayrshire and Arran, but it does have form.

Read more: Dentist faces huge legal bill despite tribunal victory

In 2012, whistleblower Rab Wilson won a five-year freedom of information battle to force the health board to release all its serious incident reports back to January 2005. Initially it said there were none, but was eventually forced to disclose all 56 reports - including 20 relating to patient deaths.

In 2017, it emerged that it had carried out just seven Serious Adverse Event Reviews (SAERs) since 2013, compared to 33 in Orkney. This is not a sign of superior care, but of a culture of suppression which would rather cover up problems than learn from them.