Whistleblower nurse 'faced witch hunt'

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A nurse choked back tears today as she told an employment tribunal she faced a "witch hunt" and was threatened with having her house burned down if she did not drop a complaint.

Senior nurse Jenny Fecitt said her daughter took the anonymous call warning their house would burned, while she was in dispute with her employer after raising concerns over a work colleague.

Ms Fecitt had complained to bosses at NHS Manchester over one of the nursing staff on her team, Daniel Swift, who she claimed "misrepresented" his qualifications and should not have been treating adult patients.

But her concerns were brushed under the carpet by trust bosses, it is alleged, and she was then subjected to a "witch hunt" and "character assassination" before receiving the threatening telephone message.

"The substance of the call was if I did not drop the case against Daniel Swift that our house would be burnt down," Ms Fecitt told the employment tribunal sitting in Manchester.

"My daughter confirmed to me the caller was male."

She reported it to Trust busses and the police. who traced the call to a phone booth. She was advised to call police again if she got any more threatening calls.

Ms Fecitt said her number was ex-directory, but available on the staff directory at the NHS walk-in centre in Wythenshawe, south Manchester, where she worked as a clinical co-ordinator and manager.

She is taking NHS Manchester to tribunal, along with fellow nurses Annie Woodcock and Felicity Hughes, claiming they were victimised after voicing their concerns - ignored by health bosses - about Mr Swift.

They have listed 46 examples of what they say is victimisation and bullying after the complaint was not treated seriously, it is claimed.

A nurse of 21 years standing, including 11 as a senior nurse, Ms Fecitt in an opening statement told the tribunal, "I admit I am no shrinking violet" and acknowledged her management style meant more junior staff may have felt "threatened or intimidated" in her approach to work.

But she held true to the nursing principles of "leadership, integrity, accountability, honesty and openness," she said.

The tribunal heard problems began on March 3rd, 2008, after Ms Woodcock approached her about Daniel Swift's qualifications.

Questions were raised about whether he was only qualified to treat child and not adult patients - with all ages coming through the doors of the walk-in centre.

Ms Fecitt said over a coffee with other staff she "subtly" turned the conversation to his qualifications - and he maintained he was qualified as both a child and adult nurse.

She called the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to check his details and was told in fact he was only qualified to treat children.

Ms Fecitt spoke to her line manager, Lesley Coates, and was told to leave it with her, but the matter was not kept confidential.

The next day Mr Swift is alleged to have called her in an "aggressive and confrontational" manner.

Her complaint had been made public she said, with her now facing a "witch hunt".

"Daniel Swift and his supporters was free to portray me in a very bad light," Ms Fecitt said.

Doors were slammed in her face and staff ostracised her, it is alleged.

Trust bosses wanted to drop the issue, but Ms Fecitt said she was too professional to let that happen and she pursued the matter, "driven by the greater good."

She called Mr Swift's boss at his previous workplace, a walk-in centre in St Helens, Merseyside and was told of "professional concerns" about him, and there were further discrepancies, unspecified, about his previous employment and qualifications.

Again bosses decided to take no further action and give him a "second chance" but Mr Swift also put in a grievance allegation of bullying and harassment - against her, which she described as a "tit for tat gesture".

The Trusts lack of action over the matter "empowered" Mr Swift and led to a "character assassination" against her, she said.

Ms Fecitt told the tribunal it was her "moral and professional" obligation to report Mr Swift to the NMC.

She also contacted the Trust's person responsible for "corporate governance, risk assessment and whistle-blowing," on April, 23, 2008, and an investigation was launched.

But in May 2008 she was then relieved of her management responsibilities, which undermined her standing.

At a following meeting she told bosses of hostility from "unruly staff" but was told she "only brought it on yourself."

Ms Fecitt began to suffer, "panic attacks, palpitations, insomnia and stress" went off sick from work and was referred to a counsellor.

The trust, she said, had failed to implement their own "stress at work policy."

While off sick she got an email from a member of staff at the walk-in centre, including photos of a staff night out, including Mr Swift, and people raising glasses, which, "I interpreted as rubbing salt into my wounds" Ms Fecitt added.

The tribunal is expected to last two weeks.