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Whistleblowing nurses launch appeal

  • 28 Comments

Three nurses who claimed they were victimised after blowing the whistle at an NHS trust have appealed against a ruling that their employers acted fairly.

Jennie Fecitt, Annie Woodcock and Felicity Hughes claimed NHS Manchester failed to protect them after they reported a male nurse to managers for exaggerating his qualifications.

Ms Fecitt said she became the victim of a “witch hunt” and was threatened with having her house burned down after they accused Daniel Swift, a fellow nurse, of only having the qualifications needed to treat children and not adults.

She said she suffered a “character assassination” while her daughter took an anonymous phone call warning their house would be set alight unless the complaint was dropped.

Ms Fecitt and Ms Woodcock were eventually transferred, despite their objections, from the walk-in centre in Wythenshawe, south Manchester, while Ms Hughes saw her “hours were reduced to zero”.

The nurses took NHS Manchester to an employment tribunal last September, claiming the trust acted unfairly and they were justified in making their complaint.

The panel, sitting in Manchester, said it was “entirely satisfied that it was appropriate” for the women to raise concerns about Mr Swift since he stated “untruths” about his qualifications and experience.

But it also found bosses acted because of a “dysfunctional environment” at the walk-in centre and not because they had blown the whistle on Mr Swift.

On Friday, at the Employment Appeal Tribunal in London, the nurses appealed against this aspect of the tribunal’s ruling.

Their barrister, Daniel Barnett, claimed the original ruling was incorrect and they were victims of discrimination as a result of deciding to break cover about their colleague’s alleged lack of qualifications.

The appeal panel’s decision is expected in the next three to four months.

Whatever the outcome of the appeal, the case is expected to set a legal precedent on the lengths that bosses can go to when an employee blows the whistle.

The nurses said they hope it will “set a line in the sand” about employers’ “duty of care” to whistleblowers.

  • 28 Comments

Readers' comments (28)

  • Whistle-blowing is the hardest thing to do and is not done lightly. Why? Because the whistle-blower is almost always seen as the villian of the piece.
    I wish these nurses well.
    Having blown the whistle once I will never do it again because of the ensuing harrassment and unfair treatment. Organizations do not want to hear the truth because they then have to deal with it and so examples like this put people off and allow bad practice to continue.

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  • I agree with the comment above. I just wish that managers and directors would wake up, face the music and deal with these sort of issues with some integrity. Sadly,from my experience within the NHS most managers I have come across have a 'bullying'mentality, which has a detrimental effect on staff. It just seems absurd that no one has any 'balls' to do their jobs properly, and they are still in management positions? where's the sense in that???
    I wish the girls good luck, it takes some courage to do what they have done.

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  • I totalLy agree with above comments and would like to congratulate these nurses as their managers failed to do so. We have duty to public and will do anything to expose people who cheat our patients. Managers need to not only support these staff but take this opportunity to set live example for others.

    This a typical example of frud in NHS

    STOP MIND GAMES NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • It is very noble act to become a Whistleblower, but unfortunately, as the three nurses found out to their cost it is rarely without repercussions for those of us who feel very strongly that we have a "duty of care" to the public and take our position as public servants seriously.

    After following the correct procedure and reporting the manager and senior nurse [seconded from the NHS]for alleged abuse of a vulnerable service user, I and the others involved in the disclosure were completely shocked to told by the Director of the private company who funded/run the unit, that we were nothing but troublemakers and that if we did not like the way the unit was run then we should GET OUT. From that moment on we were vicitmised, followed in the workplace, our conversations listened into and reported back to the Director. Eventually we were hounded out. I was left with no option but to resign and then started proceedings against the company for Constructive Dismissal. While continuing to accuse me of lying and troublemaking, they eventually settled out of court. I was fortunate that my case was settled without a need for a tribunal -and that was nerve -racking enough. Therefore, I have nothing but admiration for the three nurses who are appealing against certain aspects of their tribunal's ruling - Good on you all and good luck! At the very least you will be setting a legal precedent on the lengths that employers can go to avoid the employee being discriminated against when they blow the whistle, and hopefully remind employers that they must have a "duty of care" to whistleblowers.

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  • Steve Williams

    Kudos to these three brave people who are not only standing up for THEIR rights but the rights of ALL nurses in the UK. Even if the eventual outcome is not in their favour they have sent a loud message to management - “so far but no further!”

    We all, as front-line nurses, are bound by a duty of care to our patients – including reporting cases of institutional abuse and malpractice (aka whistle blowing.) Employers MUST be held accountable to provide a similar duty of care to the front-line nurses who do nothing more immoral than follow the NMC guidelines they are duty bound by.

    Indeed, the NMC itself, instead of placing nurses in an impossible “double-bind” situation - must be seen to actively support “whistle blowers” by somehow sanctioning (e.g. 'victimising') amoral employers that bully nurses who act (with more backbone) to a higher moral code than the bosses themselves display.

    BTW, what were the bloody unions and the RCN doing while these three nurses were being so blatantly discriminated against? I think we should be told!

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  • Bravo. I hope that sense prevails and these nurses are able to get the correct decision and set a precedent for others. Everyone is so right that whistleblowing, (terrible word), is viewed with trepidation as the whistleblower is often the person who suffers. Professionalism is at the heart of nursing and we should never over egg our qualifications. This is not only dishonest (honesty is vital in nursing), we are leaving ourselves open to error and most of all, patients could suffer. They were quite right to highlight this nurse. I am also sad that the department became such a 'bad' place after the event. I presume there may be other stories behind the scenes that we are not party to but hey, the initial reporting sounds justified.

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  • With respect to the last comment - your so right! There was more to this story than what has been reported. A 'Board to Door' bullying approach was adopted against these 3 nurses - why? Because unbeknown to them, what they blew the whistle on and NHS Manchester's own whistle blowing investigation, opened up a can of worms with respect to that employer not checking NMC registration at recruitment, failing to appoint nurses without the essential qualifications, then to compound it all, no checks to ensure competency of staff. Senior management saw the bullying and did nothing - why- because they knew 2 years ago he was not qualified to do the job, but even then did nothing to ensure he was safe. This is what the original tribunal found, but then it appears as though the courts misinterpreted the whistle-blowing laws, because these 3 brave nurses would have never have got an Appeal at the High Court. Appeals are only allowed if there has been an error in the law at the original hearing.

    I believe the nurses are funding themselves although I believe they are RCN members - read into that what you like!

    I have been following this case very close, both in the court room and in the press. Best of luck to them. A line in the sand needs to be drawn, and any individual management officer who fails to work within the whistle blowing law, should be made to foot the legal bill, rather than it be funded via the patient funds. That will stop their disgraceful behaviour overnight!! Any nurse management who fails to protect another nurse, well shame on them, the NMC MUST lead by example and hold them to account!

    In my view, Managers and Directors (including HR) who bully whistle -blowers should be shown the door - and never ever allowed to practice in the NHS again! As for the nurses in the Walk in Centre who bullied them - someone should be pointing them to their NMC Code of Conduct and refering them to the NMC along with the original nurse who lied about his qualifications and experience.

    As for the DoH - they need NHS organisations to have robust Whistle Blowing policies that not only ensure concerns will be investigated but give 110% assurance that anybody blowing the whistle will be protected! Read your policies, there is nothing about how your employer will ensure you are protected!

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  • What really gets me is where was the support from the registered nurses who allowed these 3 girls to be bullied by their team mates, middle managers and directors. Why did they not stand up for their nursing colleagues. For those of us who have worked in the NHS for many years know all to well of the management culture in the NHS which is "shoot the messenger", but what the hell went wrong with their nursing work colleagues who allowed them to be treated this way. Did they do NOTHING to support their whistle blowing colleagues? I am not condoning the disgraceful conduct of the managers...but what I fail to understand is why their fellow nursing colleagues did nothing....SHAME ON THEM!!!!!!!

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  • Steve Williams

    Whistle-blowers? Don't get me started!

    This very Nursing Times forum is set up to subjugate nurses and deny them their rights.

    Don't believe me? Then go to https://www.nursingtimes.net/whats-new-in-nursing/acute-care/top-hospitals-show-bias-for-male-nurse-directors/5018275.article#commentsubmitted
    and see the hypocrisy for yourself.

    This is a Martha Park issue.

    Nurses are being told to sit at the back of the bus!

    No longer NT!!!

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  • Apologies for sounding a note of caution
    here, but not everything is known about this case or the little details that are so important. We are basically being told what the author's want us to hear, their account of events. Remember the male nurse has rights too! For instance what is meant by a 'dysfunctional environment ' and why the need for three members of the nursing staff to 'out' the one male member of staff. I'm not sure if that is strictly 'whistle blowing is it'?
    ( He has obviously acted very foolishly and dangerously to exaggerate qualifications and experience) but what were the circumstances surrounding the discovery of this? . It doesn't sound as though it was handled well. I know it's great to 'demonise' management at the moment but not all the facts may not be as innocent as we are being led to believe and I think we should be careful before we leap to hasty judgement before the appeal is heard.
    Sorry to be the only voice of criticism..but there we are!!

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