NHA East London supports sacked Whipps Cross whistleblower Charlotte Monro during Employment Tribunal

NHA East London is joining residents’ campaign group Waltham Forest Save Our NHS to support Charlotte Monro in her bid for reinstatement to her post at Whipps Cross hospital. Charlotte Monro was an Occupational Therapist working in the NHS for 35 years prior to her dismissal by Barts Health NHS Trust in 2013.

When Whipps Cross University Hospital – the only general hospital in the London Borough of Waltham Forest, serving a quarter of a million people – was threatened with closure in 2007, Charlotte Monro took a leading role in a successful campaign to save the hospital for which she was given an award by the Trust Board at the time.

The Reinstate Charlotte Campaign aims to clear Charlotte Monro’s name and calls for an end to bullying at Barts Health Trust. NHS budgets and services are being cut across the country. In this climate the importance of staff and staff representatives being free to speak out to maintain good quality patient care has been clearly demonstrated by events at Mid-Staffs Hospital.

There will be a support gathering on Tuesday 20th January from 09.30 to 10.00 outside Anchorage House, Clove Crescent, London E14 2BE.

To show your support please sign the petition calling on Barts Health Trust to reinstate Charlotte Monro and put an end to the bullying culture revealed in the CQC report on Whipps Cross in 2013.

Barts Health NHS Trust (BHT) is England’s largest NHS trust serving much of East London. Whipps Cross is one of six hospitals operated by BHT. The new buildings at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel were funded by the biggest private finance initiative (PFI) deal in the NHS. The National Health Action Party persistently calls for all PFI deals to be annulled or renegotiated. Barts has the highest PFI debt in the country. PFI debt repayments are widely held to destabilise finances within the NHS and other public services. Barts Health Trust continues to struggle to recruit and retain staff following the mass down-banding and poor CQC report about Barts Health in November 2013.

Here is the press release from the Reinstate Charlotte Campaign in full:
“Campaigners and trade unionists will gather outside an Employment Tribunal on January 20th to call for the reinstatement of Charlotte Monro, an Occupational Therapist and union leader sacked from her post at Whipps Cross hospital, where she worked for 26 years.

Charlotte’s union Unison is bringing the case to tribunal claiming that Charlotte was wrongfully dismissed by Barts Health Trust in July 2013 after informing Waltham Forest council of staff concerns about the effects on patients of closing beds at Whipps Cross hospital’s stroke unit.

Barts has been facing spending cuts in order to service huge repayments on the private finance initiative (PFI) deal that funded the rebuilding of the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel.

Charlotte was acting in the best interests of her patients and staff, but Barts accused her of “bringing the trust into disrepute”. They also dismissed her for discussing with staff job threats she had been informed of as their union representative. Late in the process, The Trust added an allegation over non-disclosure, 26 years before, of protest-related convictions in the ’60s and ’70s. We are clear that Charlotte was dismissed for her union activities and for speaking out. A Barts spokeswoman’s claim that for patient safety they “had no alternative but to take action against Ms. Monro” is absurd and deeply unjust. Far from a threat to patients she has contributed much to improving safety, providing excellent care over a long, successful career.

Charlotte’s professional body considered an allegation over her past convictions, and concluded that there is no case to answer, recognising that the convictions date back a long time and have a specific historical context. In light of Charlotte’s long and distinguished career, whilst her convictions should have been declared earlier, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) fully upheld her right to continue to practice as an Occupational Therapist.

Unison and local campaigners hope the tribunal, to be held in Docklands from 19-23 January, will find that she was wrongfully dismissed.
Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis said that Charlotte was a “long serving and respected health worker” and that “No employer should be allowed to act in this way”.

Reinstate Charlotte campaigner Norma Dudley said: “All that Charlotte did was represent her union members and draw the attention of the local council and the community to the consequences of proposed cuts and service changes at Whipps Cross. Barts Health Trust actions have created a climate of fear seen to be aimed at keeping NHS workers quiet about cuts to services and union members cowed into submission over pay and conditions. The call to reinstate charlotte is part of a determined drive by staff, unions and the local campaigns to change this culture that is incompatible with care. At a time of national crisis in the NHS it is more vital than ever that NHS staff are able to speak out against the damaging effects of cuts on the health of the patients in their care”.

A petition calling to reinstate Charlotte and end the bullying climate at Barts is attracting widespread support. A culture of bullying where staff feared consequences if they spoke out was revealed in a CQC inspection of Whipps Cross Hospital in November 2013. Barts is struggling to cope with the effects of the coalition’s extensive NHS reforms and the severe cuts to social care services that have now led to the A&E crisis across England. Earlier this month, Whipps Cross was turning ambulances away from A&E due to lack of beds at the hospital where outpatient operations had to be cancelled to free up space.”

Reinstate Charlotte Monro

The following was sent by the Reinstate Charlotte Monro campaign. The National Health Action Party East London group is happy to offer our support of the campaign and of Charlotte and her family. We call on Barts Health Trust to reinstate Charlotte Monro. Please sign the petition here.

The dismissal of long standing union rep and health worker Charlotte Monro has repercussions not only for health workers but for all workers, particularly those in the public sector. As her tribunal approaches we are publishing these bulletins in order to promote discussion around some of the issues this case highlights.

Bulletin 1

Cuts to budgets and services

Barts health Trust a paradigm for the NHS problems
The NHS is facing a crisis of unparalleled proportions, which the public are now beginning to wake to. But health workers and union reps who speak out are increasingly finding themselves under threat.
Over the last few months growing waits for operations and treatment, long established targets as A&E waiting times impossible to meet, overworked staff unable to deliver the quality of care needed have been reported in the press. A report from Cancer Research UK reveals the strain on cancer services from funding reduction as need grows, stating recent improvements are “in danger of unravelling”.
On Saturday thousands in London greeted the Jarrow peoples march by the Darlow Mothers defending the NHS against cuts and privatisation of the NHS.
Nearly half the acute hospital trusts in England are in financial difficulties. The total deficit forecast of £750 million is nearly double that of last year. This is now recognised as a systemic issue not confined to a few ‘failing’ trusts. (1)
London acute sector faces a deficit of £100 million but this is driven by deficits in just six of the twenty acute providers. Of those six, Barts Health has the largest deficit of £44.8m forecast. This trust provides health care across East London and West Essex to some of the most deprived areas of the capital – indeed some of the most deprived in the country. The population in the three main boroughs served by this trust is set to grow by 32% over next 20 years – 270,000 additional people equivalent to a whole new London borough.
Yet instead of increasing funding to meet need the government is reducing funding by £400m in the health budgets for the area, stated in the ‘Case for Change’ issued by Barts Health Trust with the NE London Commissioning Support Unit (2). This is clearly in direct conflict with meeting need.
We have already seen the consequences of a ruthless drive to meet spending cuts of £76 million last year (now £108 million this year) where experienced staff have left in droves as demoralisation and demotivation followed a mass down banding and staff reduction programme forced through by the Trust Board. Building health services is a long term process driven by the vision and commitment of health staff. To destabilise the workforce inevitably has an adverse effect on services to patients, rendering them more vulnerable to reduction or closure.
Staff and unions warned of the impact of the proposals, and more than 500 written submissions, representative speaking at the board, and staff demonstrating in their hundreds. Along with the drive to implement these reductions in staff pay and conditions came an increasing climate of intimidation. This was revealed in a Care Quality commission inspection at the time in November 2013. Management determination to remove barriers to change by silencing critical voices is demonstrated in the case of Charlotte Monro, a senior clinical staff member and trade union representative of many years’ service, very well placed to comment on the changes proposed and on the likely effects.
Ahead of the launch of the change proposals she was barred from the Trust meetings with Union reps and placed under disciplinary investigation for her trade union activities and then dismissed. This sent a clear message to staff on the likely consequences of speaking out. (The dismissal is being challenged by Charlotte and her union through an employment tribunal to be held on 23rd September 2014.)
The campaign for her reinstatement is gaining widespread support because the issues are increasingly seen as having national resonance with concerns that this is a growing national trend. In a climate where NHS budgets and services are being cut and contracted out to the private sector, the importance of staff and staff representatives being free to speak out to maintain good quality patient care has been clearly demonstrated by recent experience.

In the context of impossible funding cuts how can any consultation be meaningful unless it includes challenging the fundamental assumptions which drive the proposals for change.

Please look out for further bulletins from the Reinstate Charlotte Monro campaign.

1 – HSJ online and printed version 22/8/14
2 – Transforming Services Chinging Lives Interim Case for Change

This clip outlines some of the financial impetuses behind NHS privatisation and cuts.