In the Media: Fairhall v University Hospital of North Tees & Hartlepool Foundation Trust

Thrive Law has been representing Ms Linda Fairhall and working on her case since 2018.

Ms Fairhall brought four specific claims against University Hospital of North Tees & Hartlepool Foundation Trust, at the Employment Tribunal in Middlesbrough. The Tribunal found that all of Ms Fairhall’s claims were well-founded and succeeded.

These claims were:

  • automatically unfair dismissal for making protected disclosures (there were thirteen disclosures made, all of which were confirmed by the Tribunal to be protected);
  • ordinary unfair dismissal;
  • being subjected to detriment for making protected disclosures; and
  • a breach of contract (failure to pay notice pay; effectively, wrongful dismissal).

The length of the suspension and the volume of allegations that amounted to protected disclosures is extremely significant to this case. The judgement and the unanimous nature of this judgement is not usually found within employment cases at any respective Employment Tribunal.

Ms Fairhall held an impressive 38-year career with the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, and maintained an impeccable record, in the role of clinical care co-ordinator. The Employment Tribunal panel described Ms Fairhall’s nursing record as “clean and unblemished”. However, due to raising staff and patient concerns, which were the thirteen protected disclosures made by Ms Fairhall, she was placed on an 18 months suspension whilst the Trust supposedly investigated insufficiently particularised allegations of gross misconduct in regard to her leadership.

In a bid to clear her name and restore her reputation, Ms Fairhall successfully challenged her employer’s decision to dismiss her. It was found that the Trust’s process had been unfair, and that the decision to dismiss was also unfair. It was also found that the suspension was so proximate and directly linked to Ms Fairhall’s thirteenth disclosure (in which she had stated that she wished to start the “whistleblowing procedure”), that there was a clear link between those disclosures and the lengthy suspension, and ultimately the dismissal, which followed.

During this time she was not only battling her employer but battling several personal tragedies too, this included recovering from breast cancer, losing her partner as a result of a heart attack eight months into the suspension and being left to care for her unwell son, home-schooling him as a single parent.

The impact of the Trust’s conduct had on Ms Fairhall is profound.  She no longer is able to work and has lost her career as a nurse.  This all arose from her trying to protect patient and staff safety and reporting genuine concerns she had.

This is a stark reminder for organisations, whether in the private or public sector, to take whistleblowing complaints seriously and to act on them promptly and most importantly not to punish those who whistleblow.

A remedy hearing is set for July of this year.

Here at Thrive, we were extremely pleased for Linda and the outcome she received, and look forward to securing her a sufficient remedy so she can finally move on from this experience. The remedy hearing is yet to be set.

Here is where it is reported:

https://www.hsj.co.uk/workforce/senior-nurse-who-tried-to-whistleblow-unfairly-dismissed-tribunal-rules/7026910.article

https://rcni.com/nursing-standard/newsroom/news/unfairly-dismissed-nurse-who-warned-bosses-of-her-patient-safety-fears-157841

https://www.nursingtimes.net/news/community/whistleblowing-district-nurse-different-person-after-unfair-dismissal-17-02-2020/

https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/fairhall-v-north-tees-and-hartlepool-nhs-trust-whistleblowing-unfair-dismissal/

If you are concerned or think you may have a whistleblowing case and don’t know what to do, you can contact us and we will be more than happy to help!

If you are an employer and are concerned someone may have whistleblown get in touch and take advice to avoid ending up like this employer.

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