Britain’s biggest NHS trust used a union critic’s undisclosed previous convictions as a teenage civil rights activist to silence her prior to downgrading 1,000 staff, a tribunal was told.
Barts Health suspended and subsequently sacked Charlotte Monro after she “aroused the wrath” of its bosses to prevent her interfering in the “financial turnaround” of the PFI-debt-ridden trust.
It highlighted her failure, when she started work at Whipps Cross hospital in 1987, to disclose convictions and prison sentences dating from her time as a teenage civil rights activist in the 1970s as justification to dismiss her in 2013.
She is claiming unfair dismissal and reinstatement or re-engagement at the trust, where she worked part-time as a moving and handling co-ordinator and a Unison union rep.
The trust, which dismissed her for gross misconduct for revealing plans to axe posts in its stroke and cardiac services and for speaking out at a council meeting, is contesting her claim.
In documents submitted last Friday to the east London tribunal, Mrs Monro said she had been involved in numerous causes as a teenager and her early 20s.
“The Vietnam war had a profound impact on me,” she wrote. “It was the era of the movements to stop the rise of extreme right-wing organisations and racist killings, of the Troubles in Ireland, against Apartheid in South Africa.”
A conviction for assault came at a demonstration in 1974 when a fellow activist was having his head smashed against the ground by police. “I was trying to prevent what I feared could be life-threatening violence to another,” she said.
Further evidence presented at the tribunal yesterday (Monday) clarified that Mrs Monro had three convictions, two of which related to the assault and ABH on the police officer. She served a six-month sentence at Styal prison in Cheshire for the offences.
She said she was not asked to undergo a Criminal Records Bureau check until March 2013 – and the trust allowed her to continue working for a further eight months before ordering her dismissal. She said her professional body had told her there was no need to mention the convictions when she first joined Whipps Cross.
Giving evidence to the tribunal, she said: “I feel very strongly that the circumstantial evidence is very significant. Two weeks after the disciplinary action was instigated against me… the trust announced it was going into financial turnaround.
“A big part of that turnaround would be a major downbanding exercise affecting 1,000 staff. I don’t believe it was coincidental I was taken out of the picture then.”
Under cross-examination by Nadia Motraghi, representing Barts Health, Mrs Monro said: “I believe I was dismissed first and foremost because of my union activities, and for speaking out… at [Waltham Forest council] scrutiny committee. I believe the dismissal for not disclosing [previous convictions] was completely disproportionate and unfair.”
Mrs Monro said her decision to speak out “aroused the wrath” of trust managers. She said: “I became an undesirable person, my action was called gross misconduct and I was called to a disciplinary hearing, for raising genuine concerns in the public interest.”
Ms Motraghi accused her of “dropping something equivalent to a bombshell” when she told medical secretaries that one of them would lose their job in the changes, in advance of an official announcement. Mrs Monro said at that point it was not agreed what information was or was not confidential.
The tribunal is due to deliver its judgement within one to two weeks.