Hartlepool NHS whistleblower nurse wins dismissal case

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Hartlepool hospitalImage source, Google
Image caption,
The trust runs hospitals in Hartlepool and Stockton, as well as community services

A whistleblower nurse who was sacked after raising concerns about workloads contributing to a patient's death has won an unfair dismissal claim.

Manager Linda Fairhall made 13 complaints to North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust about her district nurses being dangerously stretched.

Days after launching the whistleblower process she was suspended amid allegations of bullying.

A tribunal found the trust's actions "unjustified". The trust will appeal.

'Stress and anxiety'

Ms Fairhall began working for the NHS in 1979 and rose to be the manager of a team of 50 district nurses across Hartlepool, the employment tribunal in Middlesbrough heard.

She was concerned about a new policy under which nurses had to monitor patients to ensure they took medicines correctly.

The tribunal heard this meant an extra 1,000 patient visits each month.

"Incidents of absences due to stress and anxiety began to increase," the tribunal's report said.

In October 2016, ten months after her first complaint, she told managers she would start the formal whistleblowing process after the death of a patient which she "felt may have been preventable had her earlier concerns been properly addressed", the tribunal found.

Ten days later she was suspended from work and was sacked on 16 April 2018, with managers claiming "gross misconduct" relating to "inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour including bullying and harassment".

The tribunal found the allegations against her were vague with no examples given, deeming the trust's investigation "inadequate and unreasonable".

"The tribunal found [Ms Fairhall] was at the forefront of a team of nursing staff which was operating under considerable pressure and suffering from a lack of resources to meet the demands of the volume of work imposed upon them," the report said.

It said it was "reasonable to infer" that Ms Fairhall was actually suspended and sacked because of her whistleblowing.

A trust spokeswoman said: "We acknowledge the tribunal's decision and have lodged an appeal."

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