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Ambulance worker awarded £92,000 payout after 'appalling' treatment by NHS chiefs

PUBLISHED: 12:22 10 September 2019 | UPDATED: 17:19 10 September 2019

Gordon Flemming, a former mechanic at East of England Ambulance Trust. Photo: BBC

Gordon Flemming, a former mechanic at East of England Ambulance Trust. Photo: BBC

BBC

An ambulance worker who was threatened with legal action when he told his bosses he was suicidal has been awarded £92,000.

The East of England Ambulance Service. Picture: EEASTThe East of England Ambulance Service. Picture: EEAST

Gordon Flemming worked for the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) from 2009 as a motor vehicle technician based in Hellesdon.

But in 2012 he had a heart attack and he struggled to return to work. He was eventually dismissed for gross misconduct in 2015.

In February he won an employment tribunal against the EEAST for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.

And the EEAST has now been ordered to pay him £62,000 for loss of earnings, plus £20,000 for psychiatric injury and £10,000 for injury to his feelings.

Judges said that Mr Flemming, from Norwich, "was at times in his employment very difficult to manage" and would sometimes not co-operate.

But they slammed some of the NHS bosses' behaviour towards him.

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One ambulance chief talked about "pummelling" him, while the head of HR threatened him with legal action when he sent an email about his suicidal thoughts.

Mr Flemming wrote: "I am suffering from a severe and crippling mental illness [...] are you really interested in what has happened to me [...] corporate bullying on such a scale that I have contemplated ending it all, does nobody care about that?".

The reply, from Ruth McAll, director of HR, who has now left the service, said: "I appreciate you may have mental health problems, but this letter is not acceptable. In future do not write to anyone else in the trust except me. If you continue to write such letters we will refer them to our solicitors."

Judges at the tribunal said the response was the most "appalling" they had seen in their 60 years of combined service.

During a disciplinary hearing, where Mr Flemming had left his phone recording during a break, Robert Ashford, then deputy director for operations, said: "I mean getting up and pummelling it [his viewpoint] into [Mr Flemming] with my fists is probably not appropriate in terms of policy, is it?"

The judges said: "It seems to us beyond belief that someone conducting a disciplinary hearing would have felt it appropriate to use the language that he did."

Yasmin Rafiq, interim director of people and culture at EEAST, apologised to Mr Flemming.

He said: "The findings outlined in the tribunal judgement are now being remedied and our commitment is to provide a respectful working environment, enabling employees to be committed to providing quality of care to our patients."

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