Thrive Law secures major award for NHS whistleblower

Leeds firm Thrive Law has secured an award of £462,512.26 for claims of unfair dismissal and whistleblowing on behalf of its first ever client.

Linda Fairhall became the first client of Thrive Law when the firm launched in Leeds four years ago, after being dismissed from her position at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.

Fairhall worked for the trust for almost 40 years before she lost her job and was unable to work again.

In 2015, Fairhall raised concerns regarding the trust’s policies, expressing the need for reforms to meet a demand for more nurses in order to monitor patients’ prescriptions.

According to Thrive Law, this “essentially would have required an additional 1,000 extra visits from nurses per month for the service, however, she was told these additional resources were not available”.

Within the next 10 months, Fairhall reported 13 separate incidents of the health or safety of patients and staff being or likely to have been put at risk. She also voiced her concerns about the extreme stress caused by the heavy workload her nurses were experiencing.

The following October, a patient unfortunately passed away. This incident resulted in a meeting where Fairhall expressed that this death could have been prevented if the trust had addressed her concerns. She had already explained how the nurses she oversaw were unable to cope with the demand and therefore could not properly fulfil their roles due to the lack of staff.

As a result, Fairhall informed the director of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust that she wished to begin a formal whistleblowing procedure.

Upon her return from annual leave, Fairhall was unfairly suspended in October 2016 pending an investigation following allegations of gross misconduct made against her concerning her leadership. Her suspension lasted 18 months before she was dismissed in April 2018.

At tribunal, the NHS’s treatment towards Fairhall was considered to have been grossly unfair and a culmination of a process involving numerous people that had purposely been designed to get rid of her in response to the protected disclosures she had made, which was found to be the primary reason for her dismissal.

The judgment stated: “This was an employee of thirty-eight years unblemished service who was suspended from her role in circumstances where that suspension was unjustified and unreasonable.”

The tribunal added that her employer’s investigation into her alleged misconduct was inadequate and unreasonable as the evidence brought to the disciplinary panel did not support the allegations of gross misconduct.

Fairhall was awarded a top-end Injury to Feeling of Award of £35,000 along with loss of earnings, as well as future losses as she will never work as a nurse again due to the impact this ordeal has had on her mental health.

Commenting on the award, Jodie Hill, managing partner of Thrive Law, said: “This is a huge victory for Linda and for Thrive Law. I am so pleased this is finally concluded for her, and that we were able to secure a top band injury to feelings award and compensation for the costs of her ongoing therapy and career loss.”

“Most importantly though, this is a big win for all whistleblowers who selflessly stand up for what is right.”

“As Linda says herself, ‘If it changes things for others, then it will be worthwhile. I am relieved it’s over. I want other nurses to know you can and should speak out. The law does protect you.’”

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