Nurse was sacked for causing distress

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The Independent Online
AN NHS 'whistle-blower' was sacked because he breached the confidentiality of a dying elderly patient during a campaign to increase hospital staffing, an industrial tribunal was told yesterday.

Charge nurse Graham Pink, 63, had written a 'torrent of words' in letters up to and including the Prime Minister in his campaign over night nursing levels on geriatric wards at Stepping Hill hospital, Stockport, Greater Manchester, John Hand QC, for Stockport Health Authority, said.

Mr Pink had appeared in newspaper articles and on television. But Mr Hand told the hearing in Manchester, where Mr Pink is claiming unfair dismissal, that he had told a newspaper of an incident concerning a dying patient in such a way that it had identified him to his friends and relatives and caused 'great distress'.

Mr Hand said that Mr Pink, a night charge nurse on three geriatric wards, had presented a 'lurid and negative picture' of working life on the wards. 'He has complained that he was dismissed because of this campaign.'

But Mr Hand told the tribunal: 'The respondent's case is that Mr Pink was dismissed because, in the course of his campaign, he breached the fundamental principle of patient confidentiality.'

Mr Pink was sacked in 1991 during his four-year campaign with four disciplinary charges against him, of which Mr Hand said the breach of confidentiality was by far the most significant.

Mr Hand said that, in July 1990, nearly a year after Mr Pink first challenged night staffing levels, an article appeared in the Stockport Express Advertiser detailing the incident involving the patient.

The man's daughter had complained about the distress caused by the piece, which involved an account of an elderly man found lying in a pool of urine after apparently having fallen. Mr Hand said: 'Our case is that that incident and that incident alone would have provided ample justification for the dismissal of Mr Pink.'

Mr Hand read letters written by Mr Pink to hospital management in which he spoke of his 'dilemma'. He said the letters explained Mr Pink's decision to write in the local paper about the incident involving the elderly man. 'We can't help the poor patient, I think we should do something to ensure that this never happens again,' Mr Pink wrote.

The tribunal continues today.