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Midwife tells tribunal she was ‘forced out for blowing the whistle’
A MIDWIFE claims she was accused of being a bully and forced out of her job by NHS managers after raising concerns about patients’ safety, an industrial tribunal heard yesterday.
Whistleblower Louise Westwood claimed that bullying and harassment charges were brought against her after she wrote a letter raising worries that mothers and babies’ lives were being put at risk.
The midwife, who had 10 years’ experience, thought that standards of care had slipped after a series of incidents at the Cotswold Maternity Unit at Chipping Norton's War Memorial Hospital, in Russell Way, off London Road.
She wrote to alert managers about the problems, including a partially-deaf midwife who allegedly left a mother and her baby in bed after failing to hear a fire drill.
The letter, sent in January last year, also complained that another colleague was repeatedly late and had deliberately filled her time sheets out incorrectly.
Managers at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the unit, then sought to remove Mrs Westwood from the unit by falsely lodging discrimination and bullying charges against her, the tribunal heard.
The trust launched an internal investigation into the “whistleblower” after the partially-deaf midwife, known only as Midwife Two, made an official complaint about Mrs Westwood’s “bullying behaviour” in April last year.
Mrs Westwood was removed from the unit during the inquiry, which found her guilty of bullying behaviour and led to a 12-month written warning .
The tribunal heard that she has been signed off work sick since December for the stress she had suffered during the investigation.
Another midwife who had also complained about Midwife Two was dismissed, the tribunal heard.
The NHS trust denies Mrs Westwood’s claims that she was forced out of her job.
Managers told the panel that they stood by the decision to discipline her following their internal probe into the bullying allegations.
The tribunal in Reading heard that Mrs Westwood thought she had followed national and trust guidelines by raising concerns over patient safety.
However, she said the letter she wrote had ruined her 10-year career as a midwife and left her “violated and exposed”.
Mrs Westwood added: “I genuinely believed that various practices carried out by colleagues were putting patients at risk and involved potentially fraudulent activity. “I was entitled to then submit these concerns.
“Coincidentally, some weeks later I and another colleague receive bullying and harassment allegations against us and are removed from the unit while the investigations take place.”
Mrs Westwood said she was “mortified and shocked by events”.
She added: “I have a strong suspicion that this was a direct consequence of my letter.
“I feel violated and exposed. I never expected this turn of events to have happened and my only concern has always been for the mothers, fathers and babies I serve.”
The OUH NHS Trust denies Mrs Westwood’s claims and says she bullied and harassed Midwife Two over a number of years.
The employment tribunal, before Judge Andrew Gumbiti-Zimuto, continues today.
- BIRTHS were suspended at the Chipping Norton maternity unit, which was officially opened by Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron in 2011, last October. A report found a “culture of bullying” and a rift between an “old guard” and those trying to meet NHS guidelines. It also described a failure of management to address the problems and made 31 recommendations for changes. The unit reopened on July 1.