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£200,000 in compensation secured for occupational stress claim

Our client, Jackie, had enjoyed a successful career as a Matron within the NHS and was aged in her fifties when the events in question occurred. Jackie had been sexually and physically abused by her father and sexually abused by her uncle as a child. In late 2013 family members had asked her to assist her father to access cancer care and this had led to a re-kindling of memories of the abuse resulting in decline in mood and a period off work. Whilst off work she was investigated for potential breast cancer but, following biopsies and a lumpectomy, she was told it was a benign tumour.

Jackie consulted an Occupational Health Physician who recommended that she return to work on a phased basis to her substantive role with no additional responsibilities. She informed the Occupational Physician of the fact of the abuse. When she returned to work, in May 2014, her line manager failed to implement the Occupational Health Physician’s advice and instead gave her responsibilities in other departments and which far exceeded those of any other Matron. This was despite Jackie expressing her concerns about this and informing her line manager of the reason why she had been off work, the fact that she was receiving counselling for the abuse and taking Citalopram.

Our client had found it difficult to meet the responsibilities that were imposed upon her. In her appraisal in September 2014 she was tearful when she was told that the intention was to mark her as performing poorly. Her line manager relented and marked her on the middle rating but made it clear that performance management would follow if she did not improve. Her responsibilities were adjusted but she continued to have far higher responsibilities than other comparators.

Over the following months Jackie continued to find it difficult to meet her responsibilities and matters culminated with her failing to undertake a nursing metrics audit on a particular ward, after having agreed to come in over the weekend to complete the task. On the following day in work she was shouted at by a colleague for failing to undertake the audit, at which point our client became tearful and again revealed the abuse that she had suffered as a child. She was subsequently informed that she would be moved to performance management and a Capability Hearing was arranged. At the hearing, in April 2015, the line manager was highly critical of Jackie’s work and she was notified that she was formally placed at Stage 1 of the Capability Policy and that if her work did not immediately improve then she would progress to Stage 2. Following this our client suffered a breakdown, became suicidal and suffered a major depressive disorder with severe symptoms of low mood and suicidal ideation. She never returned to work in the NHS and her employment was terminated on 24th February 2016 following an Ill-Health Capability Hearing.

Our client approached Union lawyers who advised her that she did not have a claim. The case was then referred to Richard Edwards, Partner within the Personal Injury team here at Potter Rees Dolan, and an expert in handling Occupation Stress Claims. Richard was able to assist Jackie in pursuing her claim against the Trust through extensive negotiations and litigation with the result that she recovered damages in the sum of £200,000 plus costs.

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