NHS 'whistle-blower' wins pounds 11,000 damages: Health authority pulls out of tribunal brought by former nurse

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AN NHS 'whistle-blower' yesterday won a partial victory in his long-running campaign against conditions at a hospital geriatric unit as his former employers awarded him pounds 11,000 damages for unfair dismissal.

Stockport Health Authority pulled out of the industrial tribunal hearing brought by Graham Pink, 63, a former charge nurse at Stepping Hill Hospital, citing the escalating legal costs of contesting his allegations. It has already spent pounds 90,000.

Mr Pink was sacked nearly two years ago after publicising claims that elderly patients at Stepping Hill routinely received poor standards of care.

The health authority said yesterday that it did not concede any of Mr Pink's claims about ward conditions. But it accepted there were flaws in procedures in disciplinary proceedings. His former employer accepted that it should have given Mr Pink a formal warning when he went public over his allegations. The pounds 11,188 payment it has made is the maximum that could have been awarded if the tribunal, which has already sat for 10 days in March, found in his favour.

During his campaign Mr Pink appeared in national newspapers, on television and wrote what the tribunal heard was a 'torrent of words'. He compared conditions on the wards at night to those in jail. He was alleged to have breached confidentiality when he released details of an incident involving an elderly, dying man. The man's family claimed he could be identified from details, which they said had caused distress.

The authority said it was not prepared to face the pounds 250,000 extra costs of a long-running hearing.

Tony Russell, the authority's chairman, said the hearing was scheduled originally to last 10 days. But it had emerged recently that it could continue for up to three months. 'One never knows what the tribunal would have done. But winning the case was never central to us. We needed to defend the golden rule of nursing: that of patient confidentiality.

'To continue now merely to achieve a Pyrrhic victory and in the process diverting funds from our primary duty of caring for patients is completely untenable.'

Mr Pink could not be contacted for comment, but Robin Lewis, his solicitor, said: 'This is not a settlement, it is a concession.' His client was still considering whether to pursue his original claim for reinstatement. But he had no choice over accepting the withdrawal of the health authority. 'Graham Pink has won his battle. Stockport Health Authority has admitted that it acted unfairly when it dismissed him.

'His victory represents a triumph for those whose priority is care for patients over those whose first care is for balance sheets,' he said. The withdrawal from the case comes less than a week after the Government ruled that NHS employers could sack staff who alerted the media to poor standards of care even if internal complaints procedures had been exhausted.

(Photograph omitted)

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