Whistleblower nurse fired after 40-year career ‘vindicated’ as she wins £460,000 payout

A loyal NHS nurse fired after warning that increased workload contributed to a patient’s death has won a £462,000 payout.

Mum-of-two Linda Fairhall, 62, had an unblemished 40-year career when she blew the whistle at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS trust.

A tribunal upheld her unfair dismissal claim but the trust appealed. But a judge blasted health chiefs and set what is believed to be a record award for lost salary and remedies.

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Mrs Fairhall, who has had cancer and lost her partner, raised concerns on patient safety in 2016, reports the Mirror.

The Billingham woman said she felt “vindicated” by the ruling adding: “I want other nurses to know you can speak out.

The law does protect you.” At the appeal, Judge James Tayler said the original tribunal had “reached an unimpeachable decision”.

The clinical care-cordinator was sacked after after trying to whistle-blow over patient safety concerns.

Linda had an “unblemished” record at the trust where she had worked since 1979. But she was suspended in 2016, and then later sacked, after trying to start a whistle-blowing process.

Teesside Live reported in March 2020 how she had successfully challenged her employer’s decision to dismiss her.

But the impact of the ordeal had a “profound” effect on her, said her legal team, and she was left unable to work.

From 2008, Mrs Fairhall was employed as a clinical care co-ordinator for the Stockton region and then transferred to Hartlepool in June 2013.

In 2015, she was commended by the Care Quality Commission for her quality of care and leadership skills. Later that year she raised concerns over a new requirement for district nurses to monitor patients’ prescriptions.

She said it meant a sudden increase of around 1,000 extra visits a month for the service with no extra resources. Over the next 10 months, she reported 13 matters alleging that that the health or safety of patients and staff was being or was likely to be put at risk.

Ms Fairhall, who oversaw a team of around 50 district nurses, was concerned about their workload, employee stress and sickness, as well as risk to patients.

The death of a patient on October 4, 2016, prompted a meeting where Mrs Fairhall expressed the view that it may have been prevented, had her earlier concerns been addressed. And later in the month, she told the trust’s care group director Julie Parks that she wished to instigate the formal whistle-blowing procedure.

She then went on annual leave. But, on her return to work on October 31, she told she had been suspended over allegations of potential gross misconduct relating to her leadership.

Mrs Fairhall remained suspended for 18 months. During this period she also battled her own personal tragedies. She was still recovering from breast cancer treatment and her teenage son was also unwell.

Eight months into the suspension, her partner died from a heart attack. After various investigations and appeals, Mrs Fairhall was dismissed in April 2018.

The employment tribunal found the trust’s investigation into her alleged misconduct to be “inadequate and unreasonable in all the circumstances of the case”.

It said witnesses referred to little more than “themes” or “perceptions” by staff, none of which contained a level of detail which would have enabled Mrs Fairhall to respond.

The panel also noted the close proximity between the beginning of her whistle-blowing process and the trust’s decision to suspend her.

Mrs Fairhall previously said she was “absolutely devastated” by the effect it has had on her life.

“I have been utterly humiliated, my life has been left in chaos and my professional integrity has been questioned leaving my reputation irreparably damaged,” she said.

“I am devastated that after almost 40 years in a career I have been passionate about, and working in an organisation that I have always been proud to be part of, that I am left in this situation.

As a result of the impact on my physical and mental health it has been necessary to allow my professional registration to lapse and come to terms and grieve for the loss of my career.”

A spokesperson said the Trust has “continued to learn lessons and implement processes that impact positive change”.


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