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Whistleblowing nurse wins £15,000 payout after unfair dismissal

A senior overseas nurse unfairly dismissed for criticising conditions at a UK care home has won £15,000 in an employment tribunal decision.

Shanta Sangraula, president of the Nepalese Nurses Association UK, was dismissed by the owners of the Whitefriars Nursing Home in Southall after she raised concerns about abuse of elderly residents by colleagues and poor administration of medicines.

Incidents raised by Ms Sangraula included one care home resident allegedly being left outside in hot sunshine as a punishment, and threatened with having water poured over his head when he refused medication.

Ms Sangraula appealed against her dismissal, which occurred in May last year, but was unsuccessful, sparking the Royal College of Nursing to lodge a claim on her behalf.

An employment tribunal in Watford ruled on 6 September that the care home’s actions had been unreasonable and that Ms Sangraula had raised her concerns in good faith.

The tribunal said the judgement “should be a lesson” to the owners of Whitefriars – who are registered under the name Caring Consultancy Ltd – in improving their employment practices.

The tribunal papers state: “The respondent company had created an environment where there was an atmosphere that was not conducive to complaints being made by staff to the management about the care of residents.

“On the contrary…there was an atmosphere where it was difficult, if not impossible, for such allegations to be made without the complainant running some risk of their employment being jeopardised.”

RCN assistant legal officer Stephen Hall, who handled the case, said: “It is vital that employers allow nurses to raise concerns without retribution. Otherwise poor practice can just continue unchecked.”

The RCN also confirmed the concerns raised about the home would be referred to the Care Quality Commission.

The home was given a two star “good” rating in July 2008, the last time it was inspected by the Commission for Social Care Inspection.

The CQC, the combined health and social care regulator which succeeded CSCI, stopped running the star ratings inspections programme on 30 June 2010, replacing it with a system of registration.

Readers' comments (7)

  • michael stone

    GOOD ! The bigger any such award, where the whistle-blowing was appropriate (and especially where it was then not appropriately actioned) the better.

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  • £15,000 is not much in terms of compensation although in Nepalese terms it may be significant bearing in mind the salaries paid to Gurkha soldiers used to be much less than UK born soldiers.

    Private care providers should take note not only of the award but also of what will hopefully be a far more assertive approach by CQC inspectors who must take into account that staff in such places may be under direct or inferred threat of losing their jobs unless they maintain silence over potentially inappropriate levels of care.

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  • £15,000 is almost no deterrent whatsoever to other homes and institutions victimising whistleblowers.

    It is surely time to toughen up the penalties and making whistleblowing easier.

    Praise to Shanta Sangraula for courage in raising concerns.

    As for the CQC, they should (again) be ashamed of theselves.

    And what were the other nurses doing or not doing to raise concerns - not to mention the district nurses, OTs social workers and others who surely also knew what was going on?

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  • Good for her!

    It is about time that people were listened to and not victimised because of concerns for poor standards of care.

    I would also like to echo Roger's point, what were the other professionals that dealt with these vulnerable people doing - shame on them!

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  • michael stone

    Perhaps I wasn't clear. I want punitive damages, where employers attempt to silence whistle-blowers, as a mechanism to make employers properly deal with any issues which are raised. I wasn't really commenting on whether £15,000 is enough - or even if this is the right 'court'.
    I just want bad and obstructive managers/institutions, to be kicked out of the system.

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  • I am delighted to hear the news of this award, but, I wish they wouldn't use the phrase, 'whistle Blowing', in order to describe the nurses action.
    It demises the nurse's integrity, and implies they were telling tales. Lets be 'transparent from now on and be thankful for anyone who is willing to tell the truth when diclosing hushed up issues going on in the NHS.

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 7-Oct-2011 5:14 pm

    You are right, it should usually be referred to as 'raising concerns', whether those concerns are raised by staff or by patients/relatives.
    But the cases which reach the press, usually involve staff who have raised concerns, and been ignored or 'silenced' by inappropriate behaviour from people higher up the chain. Eventually someone (staff) often complains directly to the NMC, GMC, etc - and 'whistle-blowing' is probably being used, to indicate that someone had already tried to ignore previously raised conderns.
    I have long argued in favour of transparency, and open discussions of problems which involve both staff and patients/relatives - but we are not there, yet !

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