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Christian health worker says NHS made her 'look crazy'

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Media captionVictoria Wasteney: "I was left painted as a bit crazy... which is far from the truth"

A Christian health worker has said she was made to look "a bit crazy" when an NHS trust disciplined her for allegedly trying to convert a Muslim colleague.

Victoria Wasteney, 37, a senior occupational therapist, told Victoria Derbyshire a ruling that she bullied the colleague was "far from the truth".

In January she lost a tribunal in which she argued the disciplinary action was due to religious discrimination.

East London Foundation NHS Trust denies it discriminated against her.

Miss Wasteney is now appealing against this judgement with support from campaigning group Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre.

'Being groomed'

She had worked at the trust for seven years when in June 2013 she was suspended and investigated for gross misconduct over allegations of bullying and harassment.

Her colleague had written an eight-page letter of complaint containing allegations Miss Wasteney was trying to convert her by routinely asking her to pray and giving her a book about a Muslim woman converting to Christianity.

She also alleged an incident when Miss Wasteney put her hand on her knee in a prayer that lasted for 10 minutes, asking God to come to her. The colleague said she felt like she was being groomed.

In an exclusive interview with Victoria Derbyshire, Miss Wasteney said she was surprised by the allegations as she thought she and her colleague had become friends over 18 months.

"I obviously felt as though I'd been painted as a bit crazy and someone who bullies someone and someone who harasses someone and who goes out of their way to manipulate and groom someone, which is far from my truth," she said.

She said there were "aspects of truths", as she admits she did put her hand on the woman's knee and offered a "very quick prayer" after her colleague had approached her for some personal support.

"It was sad to hear later it was described as 10 minutes long. It made it sound like it was an exorcism thing that was going on and it was very hurtful. It wasn't, in my heart it wasn't the intention. I genuinely cared about her and I still do and I really hope that she is well," she said.

'Injustice'

Miss Wasteney's suspension lasted for nine months, before a hearing found her behaviour constituted bullying and harassment. She was given a final written warning, "boundary training" and monthly supervision.

She then took the trust to a tribunal, but lost. The judgement found the hospital had not acted with any prejudice or religious discrimination.

Miss Wasteney, who is back at work but not at the same hospital, said she took the trust to the tribunal as she had felt she had suffered injustice, as she knew she was not a bully, "and that was grievous to me".

"I felt... there was some injustice to what had happened and I felt that this was an avenue where I could stand and say, I would like it to be heard that this doesn't seem to be as it ought to be in a country where we are supposed to be able to be free with each other," she said.

In a statement after the tribunal decision, Dr Robert Dolan, chief executive of the trust said: "We have a strong reputation of positively supporting staff and patients from a diverse range of backgrounds. We are an inclusive trust that values and respects diversity.

"We would like to emphasise that as a trust our concerns have always been about the behaviour and actions of a senior manager employed by the trust and not about the faith or religion of any individual."

Victoria Derbyshire is broadcast weekdays from 09:15-11:00 BST on BBC Two and the BBC News Channel. Follow the programme on Facebook and Twitter, and find all our content online.

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