Northumberland Tyne and Wear Trust nurse ‘bullied’ over IT security concerns – tribunal hears

BY       17 MAY 2017 Newcastle Chronicle

Stacey Richardson has taken the Northumberland Tyne and Wear trust to tribunal over the claims

Stacey Richardson raised concerns about IT systems. 
Stacey Richardson raised concerns about IT systems.

A psychiatric nurse turned whistleblower has taken an NHS trust to an employment tribunal over claims she was “bullied” for speaking out about IT system failures.

Stacey Richardson has alleged she was subjected to numerous punishments by the Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW) for raising the alarm about flaws in the IT system.

The mental health nurse raised concerns patients were being put at risk and their confidentiality breached as a result of staff sharing logins when the system was down.

Mrs Richardson claimed the practice was widespread, although the Trust has denied this.

She made a public interest disclosure about the issue and says that she was punished as a result, including being “humiliated” during a meeting with her line manager, having a holiday request refused and being threatened with disciplinary action if she raised any more issues.

Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, in Cramlington, Northumberland
Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, in Cramlington, Northumberland (Photo: Daily Mirror)

 

The tribunal at North Shields County Court heard Mrs Richardson joined the trust in 2013 as a learning disability nurse.

By the time of the incident in question she was working as a mental health liaison nurse within the A&E department at the newly opened Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, in Cramlington.

The hearing was told Mrs Richardson and another nurse had assessed a patient together during a shift in March 2016.

Towards the end of Mrs Richardson’s shift, the second nurse was unable to login to the system, and Mrs Richardson agreed she could complete the report using her login details when she went home.

The next day Mrs Richardson raised the issue with her line manager, Joanne Sharp.

Mrs Richardson told the tribunal: “I said I was really concerned that I had to allow someone to use my login to complete a report because the IT system had failed.

“I was concerned that a member of staff couldn’t access patient information – that puts the patient at risk because we are not able to assess them properly.

Stacey Richardson of Camperdown
Stacey Richardson of Camperdown (Photo: newcastle chronicle)

“I felt I was being compromised and patient confidentiality was being compromised.”

At a supervision meeting between the two a week later, the hearing was told Miss Sharp locked the door of the room, saying it was because she had been interrupted during an earlier meeting.

Mrs Richardson claimed Mrs Sharp then proceeded to “interrogate” her, “becoming more and more aggressive”, in a meeting she ultimately reported to the police.

When asked why she didn’t just leave the room, Mrs Richardson said: “I felt paralysed and humiliated – I was physically traumatised.

“It was implied that if I raised any more issues I would be going down the disciplinary route.”

Giving evidence at the hearing, Miss Sharp firmly denied subjecting Mrs Richardson to a “tirade”, saying, “It was never my intention to make anyone feel uncomfortable.”

Mrs Richardson also claims that she was refused a holiday request and permission to attend a conference as a result of the public interest disclosure.

Yunus Baksh, representing Mrs Richardson, claims she was punished for “being the first employee not to just ‘put up and shut up’ with the faulty IT system”.

But the Trust has categorically denied the allegations, with manager Julie Green saying they “never made a secret” of the issues.

Ms Green confirmed she had made an entry on the risk register in June 2015 saying IT issues for NTW staff working at the new Northumbria hospital were posing “significant challenges”.But she said staff were in a period of transition while moving to the Cramlington hospital and the issues had now been “largely resolved”.                               The hearing is due to last until Wednesday.

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