An NHS whistleblower found herself “walking on eggshells” at work after raising concerns about inefficient patient controls, a Croydon employment tribunal was told.
Bernadette Rochford says she was unfairly dismissed by NHS Southwark Primary Care Trust, (PCT) now Southwark Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), and reportedly seeks £30,000 in damages for stress-related illness.
The nurse voiced “serious concerns” about the way patients were assessed for NHS funding soon after she was appointed clinical commissioner at Southwark PCT, in April 2011.
She said that because of inefficient controls there was no notion of how many patients were receiving continuing care, which resulted in NHS paying for care for dead patients.
Rochford said a “best guesstimate” of continuing healthcare patient numbers revealed “two-thirds of the patients were in fact dead…”
She says she was bullied, harassed and racially intimidated after raising concerns.
Rochford resigned as healthcare commissioner following a long period of absence due to stress and anxiety.
During the tribunal on Thursday, Rochford criticised NHS Southwark’s management and HR for the lack of due care and for the lengthy process she went through in dealing with her concerns through the whistleblowing and grievances procedures.
Rochford explained that during her extended absences she was referred to 15 different GPs, health professionals and counsellors for health reviews.
She said having to repeatedly tell them her story only for them to reach the same diagnosis had caused her stress. She added: “It’s confirmation that there’s a problem.”
Witness Alison Rayman, a HR consultant during Rochford’s employment, said it had “taken quite long” to deal with Rochford’s concerns, but this was “because of Rochford’s sick leave and the amount of people involved.”
In cross examination Christopher Edwards, representing Southwark CGG, asked if Rochford had cooperated with the health reviews. She responded that she could not disagree to it because “it would’ve looked odd.”
She also stated that she could understand the need for health referrals but that is was “inappropriate” to use the referral system to misrepresent her.
Rochford’s experience of whistleblowing was included in the Francis report , published in February 2015, which proposed key recommendations for NHS organisations, professional and system regulators to help foster a culture where staff can safely raise concerns.
The Southwark CCG have also been criticised for resisting Rochford’s claim in court.
The CCG have said allegations by Rochford were “fully investigated at the time” adding: “An independent investigation recognised that all issues were being addressed and effective systems were in place.”