Nurse wins tribunal case after losing shifts for raising concerns

The whistleblowing agency nurse had shifts cancelled after questioning decision to put patient into seclusion due to staffing issues

The whistleblowing agency nurse had shifts cancelled after questioning decision to put patient into seclusion due to staffing issues

A photo of Atherleigh Park Hospital taken from the road
Atherleigh Park Hospital Picture: Google

A whistleblowing agency nurse who had their shifts cancelled after raising concerns about the treatment of a patient has won their case against an NHS trust at an employment tribunal.

Agency nurse had shifts cancelled after raising human rights concerns

Mental health nurse Mark Temperton was working a night shift at Atherleigh Park Hospital in Manchester when he objected to a patient who had been brought in by police being put immediately into seclusion because of staff shortages.

Mr Temperton, who had been booked to work a night shift at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust’s (GMMHT) psychiatric intensive care unit on 14 October 2022 through his agency Blackstone Recruitment, raised concerns with colleagues that the decision was a breach of the Mental Health Act’s Code of Practice.

According to the code, seclusion should be used for ‘immediate necessity for the purpose of the containment of severe behavioural disturbance which is likely to cause harm to others.’ It adds: ‘Seclusion should not be used as a punishment or a threat, or because of a shortage of staff.’

Mr Temperton, who is also employed by the Priory Group as a regulatory inspector and for the Care Quality Commission (CQC), later accompanied a locum psychiatrist to assess the patient in the early hours of 15 October, but the decision was taken to keep them in seclusion as they had become extremely agitated.

Mr Temperton later raised his concerns verbally and via email with his agency and the CQC and days later his subsequent shifts were cancelled by the trust, which said it had ‘block booked another nurse’.

The same month, a BBC Panorama programme broadcast an expose about Edenfield Centre, also part of the trust, which revealed staff bullying and mocking vulnerable patients and use of inappropriate seclusion.

Tribunal judge inferred that agency shifts were cancelled because concerns were raised

A tribunal judgement published this month found that Mr Temperton had suffered detriment after he made the ‘protected disclosure’, and GMMHT could not produce any evidence of the employment of a replacement nurse.

Employment Judge Holmes said the tribunal had ‘drawn the inference’ that Mr Temperton’s shifts had been cancelled after he questioned the earlier decision of ward manager Kim Hall to put the patient in seclusion. They also noted the ‘terse nature of an email’ sent to Mr Temperton by the trust a week after the incident.

The ruling said: ‘The firm impression is that the claimant was not going to get any more shifts, and that must make the tribunal question why that would be.’

The judgement concluded that Mr Temperton was entitled to a ‘remedy’ for the detriment claim and a hearing was scheduled for 12 July to decide the remedy outcome.

The trust said it was unable to comment on the case as it was not fully concluded, but associate director of corporate governance Paul Lewis-Grundy told Nursing Standard a number of steps had been taken to protect staff who raised concerns including employing a new full-time Freedom to Speak Up guardian.

He added: ‘It is absolutely vital that staff feel confident and safe to speak up, with no detrimental impact to themselves or their career and prospects. Over the past two years, we have invested significantly and taken a number of steps to support this across GMMHT.’

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