A WHISTLEBLOWER nurse who was sacked after warning that the workload on NHS staff had led to a patient’s death has been awarded hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Linda Fairhall, who had an “unblemished” career as a nurse for almost 40 years, was suspended and then sacked in 2016 after raising concerns about patient safety.

The 62-year-old nurse, from Billingham, has now been awarded a payout in excess of £462,000, her lawyers have said.

It is thought to be a record for lost salary and remedies.

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She said: "If it changes things for others then it will be worthwhile. I'm relieved it's over.

"I want to express my thanks to Thrive Law and to my barrister Matthew Rudd for the advice and support throughout the whole process."

Ms Fairhall had been a nurse at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust. She started working with the NHS in 1979 and had been overseeing a team of about 50 district nurses in Hartlepool when she was suspended.

In 2020, Ms Fairhall successfully challenged her employer's decision to dismiss her.

Though the trust tried to appeal the decision last year, the appeal court found in her favour again – saying the tribunal had reached “an unimpeachable decision” that she was dismissed for whistleblowing.

The trust says it is continuing to learn lessons and implement positive change.

In 2020, the Northern Echo reported how the case had a profound impact on Ms Fairhall, who lost her career and was no longer able to work.

She said she felt "vindicated" by the result. 

The Northern Echo: Linda Fairhall had been a nurse for almost 40 years and had an 'unblemished' record Linda Fairhall had been a nurse for almost 40 years and had an 'unblemished' record

Lawyers from Thrive, who were acting for her, said: “After supporting Linda for all these years and with her being our first client when we launched four years ago, we are over the moon for her. 

"She can now move on with her life after this very difficult time which has been so consuming for her.”

Ms Fairhall first raised concerns in 2015, when she said change in policy, requiring district nurses to monitor patients' prescriptions, meant about 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 and voices concerns about 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.

During the meeting, Ms Fairhall said nurses were “unable to function” in their roles as a result of a decrease in staff numbers.

The Northern Echo: Linda FairhallLinda Fairhall

Later that month, she told the trust’s care group director Julie Parks that she wished to instigate the formal whistle-blowing procedure.

After returning from annual leave on October 31, 2016, she was informed she was being suspended to allow an investigation to take place following allegations of gross misconduct relating to concerns about her leadership.

She was suspended for 18 months before being sacked in April 2018.

The tribunal found the trust's investigation into her alleged misconduct to be “inadequate and unreasonable”, and said there was a "lack of credible evidence" from witnesses.

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

Employment judge Gerald Johnson oversaw the hearing at the Teesside Justice Hearing Centre, where he found in favour of Ms Fairhall.

In a report, the panel described Ms Fairhall's nursing record as being “clean and unblemished”.

It also found that Ms Fairhall's complaints when she worked at the trust had contained sufficient information to prove the safety of staff and patients was likely to be endangered.

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It said: "The tribunal found that the claimant was at the forefront of a team of nursing staff which was operating under considerable pressure and suffering from a lack of resources to meet the demands of the volume of work imposed upon them."

A North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust spokesperson said: "Throughout the duration of this case, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust has continued to learn lessons and implement processes that impact positive change.

“The trust remains committed to supporting staff and patients in raising concerns relating to practice and care. Our dedicated Freedom to Speak Up Officer works with our workforce in identifying areas of challenge to facilitate improvements and opportunity for growth.”


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