Hartlepool nurse wins unfair sacking tribunal against North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust

A Hartlepool nurse with an unblemished record has won her case for unfair dismissal after whistleblowing over safety fears.

Friday, 6th March 2020, 10:37 am
Updated Friday, 6th March 2020, 1:11 pm

Linda Fairhall, who managed the district nursing team in Hartlepool from 2013, was sacked in 2018 for alleged misconduct after she raised concerns about patients being put at risk due to insufficient staff levels to cope with increased demands of the job.

A change in policy to make sure patients took prescribed medicines correctly resulted in an extra 1,000 home visits a month.

An employment tribunal brought by Miss Fairhall against North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, heard it led to anxiety and stress-related absences.

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Linda Fairhall oversaw the district nursing team of around 50 nurses in Hartlepool.
Linda Fairhall oversaw the district nursing team of around 50 nurses in Hartlepool.

The tribunal heard Miss Fairhall felt the death of a patient in October 2016 could have been prevented if her managers had acted on her concerns.

Between December 2015 and October 2016, she reported her concerns on a risk assessment register and in numerous meetings with more senior managers.

In an email to the assistant director of nursing in September 2016, Miss Fairhall warned “the situation is no longer sustainable”.

At the end of October 2016, Miss Fairhall was suspended shortly after saying she intended to invoke the formal whistleblowing policy.

The Trust said it was to investigate allegations of potential gross misconduct, bullying, and harassment.

But the tribunal said the allegations were vague and did not justify her sacking. No specific allegations about her conduct were put to her during the investigation or in a letter confirming her dismissal.

The judgement report stated: “This was an employee of thirty-eight years unblemished service who was suspended from her role in circumstances where that suspension was unjustified and unreasonable.”

The tribunal upheld Miss Fairhall’s claims of unfair and wrongful dismissal, and that she was subjected to detriment for whistleblowing.

Its judgement added the Trust’s Investigation into the alleged misconduct was inadequate and unreasonable as the allegations were not put to her.

It stated: “The tribunal found that the decision of the disciplinary panel to dismiss the claimant for gross misconduct was not supported by the evidence before the panel.”

A North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust spokesperson said: “We acknowledge the Tribunal’s decision and have lodged an appeal.”