Nurse with 38 years’ experience “unfairly dismissed”, says Employment Tribunal

An Employment Tribunal has ruled that a nurse was unfairly dismissed after activating a hospital trust’s whistleblowing policy procedure.

According to reports, Ms Fairhall, a senior staff member with over 38 years’ experience, raised several safeguarding concerns with hospital bosses over her team’s workload, mental and physical health and lack of training.

The NHS nurse also alerted officials to concerns over patient safety, including one death which she thought was “preventable”.

However, after disclosing her concerns, Ms Fairhall was suspended on the grounds “to allow an investigation to take place following allegations of potential gross misconduct relating to concerns regarding your leadership and also concerns in relation to inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour including bullying and harassment”.

After 18 months and several investigations and appeals, the nurse was dismissed.

Hearing the case, the Employment Tribunal found the hospital trust’s investigation into the alleged misconduct to be “inadequate and unreasonable in all the circumstances of the case”.

“No explanation was given for the unreasonable delay in interviewing the relevant witnesses, particularly those who are said to have expressed concerns about the claimant’s behaviour,” said Tribunal Judge Johnson.

“No explanation was given as to what was to be the remit of the investigation or of any instructions given to the investigating officer.”

The Tribunal added that the “disciplinary hearing itself was unfair and unreasonable from the outset, in that it did not set out with any precision the allegations of misconduct which the claimant was expected to answer”.

A remedy hearing is set to take place over the coming weeks.

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