Britain’s biggest NHS trust was yesterday accused of mounting a “fishing expedition” against a union activist to justify dismissing her for speaking out over job cuts.
Managers at Barts Health were also said to have “beefed up” the accusations faced by Charlotte Monro to make her alleged disrepute appear more serious, her barrister Nicola Newbegin told the hearing.
Mrs Monro was sacked in July 2013 after alerting staff to a proposed loss of posts and beds on the stroke unit at Whipps Cross hospital, in Leytonstone, and after she spoke of her concerns at a Waltham Forest council meeting.
The case is seen as a test case across London for the way NHS trusts deal with their employees and comes after Barts admitted it has a problem with bullying. Campaigners believe it also touches on the issue of NHS failures to protect whistleblowers.
Ms Monro is claiming unfair dismissal after being dismissed for allegedly failing to respect confidentiality, bringing the trust into disrepute by providing “inaccurate information” and for a conflict of interest.
At the tribunal in Docklands, Ms Newbegin revealed that the disrepute claim was expanded by adding the words “despite being in possession of the facts”.
She asked Barts manager Simon Ashton: “Does it not concern you that someone appears to have beefed up allegation two?
“Do you accept therefore that the addition of these words materially changes the nature of the charge, from giving inaccurate information to knowingly giving inaccurate information?”
Mr Ashton replied: “Yes.”
She said the investigation into Mrs Monro’s alleged misconduct amounted to a “fishing expedition” by failing to pinpoint exactly what confidential information she had shared. “The trust is fishing to see what might or might not have been said,” said Ms Newbegin.
Changes were also made to a charge about Mrs Monro, the Unison branch rep for Waltham Forest and a patient handling manager at Whipps Cross, failing to declare a protest-related criminal conviction dating from 1975.
Asked whether the decision to discipline Mrs Monro, who had worked at the hospital for 26 years, had been “all about her activities as a union rep”, Mr Ashton said: “Yes.”
The hearing is expected to last until the end of the week. Barts Health is contesting the claim that Mrs Monro was dismissed unfairly.
See here for previous coverage in the Evening Standard about Charlotte Monro: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/health/barts-suspends-union-leader-as-1000-staff-compete-to-keep-jobs-8781964.html