£230,000 Compensation Payout for Whistleblowing Nurse

A former nurse has won a huge compensation claim at an employment tribunal in Exeter.

Clare Sardari, 57, will receive £230,000 in damages from South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust after a judge agreed she was ‘bullied, threatened and intimidated’ by her superiors in an effort to prevent her whistleblowing about her boss Dr Paula Vasco-Knight’s decision to promote her own daughter’s boyfriend to the role of Diversity Manager without him having fairly obtained the position.

Ms Sardari made the whistleblowing claim alongside colleague, Penny Gates, 53. Together they took their concerns to senior employee, Adrienne Murphy, who responded that the pair should expect to lose their jobs ‘through dirty means’ if they did not stop asking questions.

The tribunal ruled that Ms Sardari was made to feel alienated for making the claim which led her to suffer detriment as a result. The actions of Dr Vasco-Knight also came under scrutiny at the tribunal as she was proven to have deliberately tried preventing the release of materials showing her wrongdoing. Although Dr Vasco-Knight denied all of these claims, she then abruptly resigned from her position at Torbay hospital in Devon shortly afterwards.

At the tribunal Dr Vasco-Knight claimed that Ms Sardari’s whisteblowing had all the hallmarks of a personal attack rather than an effort being made to correct a genuine wrong. In a statement she claimed “on a personal level I found the allegations as nothing less than personal slander and I wonder if a white middle-class male chief executive officer would have been treated with such disrespect.”

Ms Sardari left the Tribunal in tears following the ruling and refused to make any comment. Her colleague and fellow whistleblower, Mrs Gates, has returned to work at Torbay hospital under a separate settlement.

The tribunal ruling

Tribunal judge Nick Roper awarded Ms Saradi £228,000 in compensation; a figure that covers her back pay and pension benefits along with the legal costs and agreed damages she incurred.

The full amount will be paid by South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which Dr Vasco-Knight was the chief executive of before her resignation. Her peers at the Trust paid tribute to her by releasing a statement about her time with the organisation shortly after the ruling which said “considerable success was achieved during her tenure. It is unfortunate her achievements have been overshadowed by the tribunal judgement”.

Describing the ruling, tribunal judge Nick Roper explained:

“We find that there was a concerted effort by the South Devon Healthcare Trust to manipulate the investigation, accuse the claimants of malice, suppress the report and to mislead the other parties as to its contents, with the apparent aim of protecting Dr Vasco-Knight and Mrs Murphy against the force of the claimant’s allegations […] This was completely contrary to the protection which they should have been offered under the Whistleblowing guidelines.”

Whistleblower at Edinburgh Care Home Receives Praise

Scottish parliamentary member Cameron Buchanan has praised an Edinburgh whistleblower who recently revealed the shocking conditions that exist at a top care home in the city.

Buchannan said the individual had ‘shown courage’ in coming forward and that there will now be a full investigation into the situation which involved the abuse of many of the home’s 53 residents, explaining: “While abuse in care homes is not prevalent, it is more common than people think and if there is any truth in these allegations, it would be very disturbing.”

As of yet no workers have been charged with a crime but the evidence involved is said to strongly support a case for abuse.

Managers from Four Seasons Health Care, the organisation that owns Colinton facility through the subsidiary firm Brighterkind, are assisting police with their enquiries. The owners have also expressed support for the whistleblower and are pleased that it was they who passed on the whistleblower’s concerns to the appropriate authorities as part of their “active whistleblowing policy”, which they encourage at all the 350 care homes they manage around the UK.

Colinton Care Home representative Charlotte Nicholds released a statement concerning the investigation:

The well-being of the people in our care is our priority and we have an active whistle-blowing policy that encourages our residents, relatives and staff to raise any concerns they may have about any aspect of care and these are always followed up and referred to relevant authorities as appropriate so that they may be investigated in a thorough and transparent way”.

Colinton Care Home is no stranger to controversy. In may 2007 nurse Jeffrey Ednalan, 34, received a fifteen month jails sentence for abusing patients at the home. This abuse included two counts of indecent assault and involved an occasion in which placed a deodorant can in the mouth of a 95 year old man prevent him from shouting.

The freedom to Whistleblow at Scottish NHS facilities has been placed under scrutiny in the past, leading to a series of reform plans in 2014. This revision resulted in the introduction of “whistleblowing champions”; individuals whose job it will be to encourage potential whistleblowers with their concerns and assist them with speaking out.

This announcement was made shortly after a UK government report named Freedom to Speak Up (written by Sir Robert Francis) was issued. This report revealed the experiences several whistleblowers underwent, bringing to light a culture of intimidation within the NHS that resulted in whistleblowers being bullied and isolated from their peers after speaking out.

This report caused shockwaves in Scotland and moved Scotland’s Health Secretary, Shona Robison to remark that she wants all NHS staff to “have the confidence to speak up without fear” about patient safety.