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Mental health nursing staff win fight over 'restraint' sacking

A mental health nurse and two healthcare assistants have won a fight to clear their names after being fired over restraining a patient.

The trio were found guilty of gross misconduct and sacked by Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust after an incident at Bodmin Hospital. Qualified nurse Sharon Little and HCAs Tim Spear and Martin Smith had to physically restrain the violent patient on Harvest Ward.

After employment tribunal, judge Nicholas Roper decided they were fired unfairly.

“In my judgement, that is an extraordinary and unreasonable conclusion”

Nicholas Roper

Ms Little said they were pleased with the decision but had been through a large amount of stress during the two-year battle to clear their names.

The judge said the patient’s side of the story had been believed over the nurses’ evidence, which was “extraordinary and unreasonable” because in several areas it was shown to be wrong.

He also said the man was “a very ill psychiatric patient who is dangerous and disruptive”, adding that he was “an inconsistent and unreliable witness”.

Mr Roper said part of the reasoning used when deciding to fire the nurses was criticism of their accounts as inconsistent. But there was no reasonable reason to dismiss them for gross misconduct, he said.

He added that before the assault allegations, all three nurses had clean disciplinary records and a total of 50 years service in care of mental health patients. He said being fired had in effect ended their careers.

Mr Roper said: “The patient was found to be credible, and his evidence preferred to that of the three claimants.

“In my judgement, that is an extraordinary and unreasonable conclusion.”

Readers' comments (8)

  • Must have been a great relief.
    Does anybody know what the NMC made of all this?

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  • Really glad you persisted in clearing your names. Well done.

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  • Hope that you get an apology and compensation from the Trust involved.
    Perhaps they will be more careful in establishing the facts in future.

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  • Sadly, over the years, these situations have been replicated many times according to the people who have made contact with www.suspension-nhs. What was the reason for taking this action against these three staff? Sometimes it is a new manager who feels threatened by experienced staff - professional jealousy. Sometimes it is revenge for the staff being outspoken, especially about staffing levels and protocols. Sometimes it is a new manager who has let the power go to their heads. Then their colleagues seem to feel obliged to support them even when it is so clear that they have over stepped the mark.
    The investigation meeting and disciplinary meeting notes, rarely reflect what the defendant said and it takes a lot of time going through all the notes, correcting them. People sometimes leave minor things – to their cost. The correct way for the trusts to conduct these meetings is to record them and give a copy to the defendants with the transcript. Expensive yes but also fair since so much is at stake. Ah – but who said anything about being fair or transparent or trying to find the truth in an unbiased manner?
    Julie Fagan, founder member CAUSE

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  • Thank God these poor dedicated carers have been listened to and Justice accorded them. Lots of the Managers are knee jerking on issues of protection of vulnerable adult, simply because of the publicity.Incompetence they are . I can feel how relief these guys are. However the Journey has only begin as the Police may make it difficult for them to have CRB to return to work if the case went through them before. Their reputation damaged beyong salvage . More staff working in mental health hospitals and home are daily suffering from flimsy allegation , which are later blown out of proportion .
    God save the care system.

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  • As reported more fully by the Cornish Guardian on 12th March Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust do not accept the legal ruling. The trust's nurse executive, Sharon Linter, is reported to have said "...the trust believes the dismissal of these staff members was fair and appropriate." So apologies and compensation to my former colleagues and fairness and transparency on the part of this trust are, in my opinion, a long way off.

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  • With reference to the above contribution,if Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust really don't accept the legal ruling- does that mean they think they are above the law and can do what they like with impunity?
    Guess so- in common with many other trusts who get away with huge understaffing of wards and sack the nurses when it all goes belly up!

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  • "Mr Roper said part of the reasoning used when deciding to fire the nurses was criticism of their accounts as inconsistent."

    is that really surprising when their clinical judgement under difficult circumstances was being questioned under duress. Also 'false' or 'forgotten memory syndrome' are normal human phenomena and especially under such circumstances.

    "Mr Roper said: “The patient was found to be credible, and his evidence preferred to that of the three claimants.

    “In my judgement, that is an extraordinary and unreasonable conclusion.” "

    for the sake of human decency and respect both the patient and the claimants sides of their stories need to be listened to and taken into consideration and treated justly.

    The staff have won but not without being put through undue stress and their names and reputations tarnished.

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