Cash-strapped Central Middlesex hospital fined over ‘unfair dismissal’

North West London NHS Trust taken to an Employment Appeal Tribunal

A CASH-STRAPPED health trust is facing a compensation payout after a court ruled it unfairly sacked a nurse for making a ‘lewd’ comment while treating a patient who was having an epileptic seizure.

Laura Bowater was given her marching orders from Central Middlesex Hospital (CMH) in Park Royal after she said ‘it has been a few months since I have been in this position with a man underneath me’ as she sat astride the patient in July 2006.

The senior staff nurse, took North West London NHS Trust to an Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) who upheld the trust’s action.

However, last week an appeal court decided her comment was merely humorous and did not justify the termination of her career’.

Lord Justice Stanley Burnton, sitting with Lord Justice Laws and Lord Justice Longmore, heard no one suggested the unconscious patient could have heard what Nurse Bowater said and although she had contributed 25 per cent to her dismissal it was nevertheless unfair.

The trust said it had dismissed Ms Bowater because that not only was the comment inappropriate but it was of a sexual innuendo involving sexual relations with a patient.

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Following the ruling, Ms Bowater’s case will go before a tribunal again where her payout will be assessed.

The appeal court’s decision is a financial blow for the trust which is implementing a catalogue of cost-cutting measures to cope with debts speculated to be around �29million .

Last month the Times revealed the trust was planning to cut 87 jobs, including 49 clinical positions, two years after they slashed 400 posts to save �32m.

As part of the trust’s belt-tightening exercise CMH has downgraded its children’s services and is no longer accepting ‘blue light 999’ cases of patients who need emergency surgery.

A trust spokesman told the Times it was disappointed by the appeal court’s judgement.

He added: “We do, however, expect high standards of behaviour from all our staff and it is not acceptable for staff to make lewd comments when treating patients.”

Professor John Duncan, medical director of the National Society for Epilepsy, said in all cases individuals suffering from epilepsy should be treated with respect and dignity.