A trust unfairly dismissed a senior nurse after she tried to invoke its formal whistleblowing policy, an employment tribunal has ruled.
North Tees and Hartlepool Foundation Trust had suspended Linda Fairhall for 18 months without a “meaningful or adequate” explanation prior to her dismissal, the judgment said.
Ms Fairhall, who led a team of 50 district nurses in Hartlepool, reported on the trust’s risk register that a “change in policy” by the local authority had directly led to increased workloads for her staff. The change meant staff had to monitor patients who had been prescribed medication “so as to ensure the correct medicines were being taken at the correct time”, the judgment said.
She reported numerous concerns to senior management between December 2015 and October 2016, amounting to 13 protected disclosures according to the tribunal, ranging from work-related stress, sickness, absenteeism and a need to retrain healthcare assistants.
A patient’s death triggered a meeting involving her and senior managers, which she said could have been prevented had her earlier concerns “been properly addressed”.
Ms Fairhall told care group director Julie Parks she wanted to initiate the formal whistleblowing policy on 21 October 2016, before going on annual leave a few days later. When she returned, she was told she had been suspended for 10 days.
The judgment, handed down at Teesside Justice Hearing Centre and published last week, added: “No reasonable employer, in all the circumstances of this case, would have conducted the investigation in this manner.”
The judgment said the tribunal believed the principal reason for her dismissal was because she had made protected disclosures. It upheld her claim that her dismissal was automatically unfair.
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Source: HSJ, 17 February 2020