Judge slams hospital bosses for ‘hatchet job’ on long-serving staff member
- Credit: Archant
Hospital bosses carried out a “hatchet job” on a long-serving staff member after he raised concerns about bullying, a tribunal found.
John Truscott, who had worked for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital since 1988 in its operating theatres, was unfairly dismissed, the employment tribunal ruled.
In a decision published last month, Judge Robin Postle slammed the hospital’s management for the way it treated Mr Truscott, accusing them of ignoring his diagnosed mental health problems when it sacked him in 2018.
He said Mr Truscott’s complaint for disability discrimination, regarding stress and anxiety, was “well founded”.
But a hospital spokesman said it is appealing the decision.
The hospital now has new management, but at the time, regulator the Care Quality Commission also raised concerns about a “bullying culture” in the NNUH’s hierarchy - and this was something Mr Truscott said he experienced.
His problems began in 2013, the tribunal heard, when he failed several students from passing an exam at the University of East Anglia (UEA).
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Mr Truscott was an assessor and tutor at the UEA for its operating department practice course.
But that year he failed six out of seven students, believing they lacked basic life support skills and were therefore a risk to patients.
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The UEA then complained to the NNUH about Mr Truscott and passed three of the students he had failed.
But the hospital did not tell Mr Truscott for months that the university had put in a complaint about him.
The tribunal said: “It would appear that the whole matter was brushed under the carpet so as not to upset the relationship between the UEA (and the NNUH).”
Mr Truscott then raised a grievance against the hospital for the way it handled the UEA’s complaint.
His grievance was eventually upheld after several months of delays.
In 2016 the hospital agreed the process had been “flawed and muddled” and apologised to him.
But Mr Truscott then angered the hospital’s chief executive at the time, Mark Davies, by sending him an email about what had happened.
“There has been significant detriment to myself,” he wrote.
But Mr Davies said Mr Truscott had been “rude and disrespectful”.
The tribunal ruled that it found Mr Davies’s reply “quite extraordinary and an example of the nature of the culture that appears to exist within the organisation”.
Mr Truscott then went on to upset management further the following year, in 2017, when he accused the hospital in a widely-circulated email of “appalling bullying behaviour” over getting staff to take the flu jab.
Mr Davies shot back immediately, writing to Jeremy Over, the head of HR, and Richard Parker, chief operating officer, stating: “Folks, isn’t it about time we did something about this person?”
Mr Over replied that he would “oversee”.
The tribunal took those emails as a key bit of evidence in the case against the hospital.
“It would appear to the Tribunal there was some form of hatchet job that dismissal was inevitable,” the ruling said.
From that point Mr Truscott went through the hospital’s disciplinary process.
An external investigator was brought in who found he had no case to answer,
But the hospital then put him before a disciplinary panel and finally dismissed him in March 2018.
The hospital said: “The behaviour you have demonstrated has been sustained over an extensive time period and has resulted in an irretrievable breakdown in working relationship.”
But the tribunal found the NNUH had failed to take into account his mental health.
“It is entirely clear and obvious to the Tribunal that given the claimant’s stress, anxiety and depression, there was a wholesale failure by the respondents to deal with the claimant’s particular condition,” the judgement read.
It said the way the hospital dealt with the case was “fundamentally flawed” and “wholly unfair”.
The tribunal also found that Terms of Reference for the hospital’s investigation into Mr Truscott showed that “the case had been decided before it had started”.
The UEA and Mr Davies have been contacted for comment.