Tag Archives: Defend Charlotte Monro

A Personal Statement from Charlotte Monro

“I am really happy to be returning to work with my team and the rest of the staff at Whipps Cross Hospital and Barts Health NHS Trust. And I look forward to being able to contribute to the work I understand is now under way, in response to the CQC report, to bring about improvement in our hospital. It’s vital that Whipps Cross becomes again a hospital of choice for health staff to work in, where they can provide the best standards of health care to our local population, and find a good future.

Health staff must be able to speak out for their patients and services without fear. They must be free to organise themselves in trade unions and stand as representatives knowing that their rights as a union rep will be respected, and that the role of an independent union campaigning for the interests of the staff, their patients and services is also respected. These were issues at the heart of my case. Its resolution will I hope contribute to building a climate of openness and confidence so needed in our health service.

I want to thank my union UNISON for its backing and support in taking my case to tribunal, and to thank our highly committed legal team. I have been moved and inspired by the support from colleagues, from health campaigners and fellow trade unionists, and so many other people. It has held me up through some pretty difficult times and brought home that the issues I faced have far wider significance for people.
Together we are standing up for what we believe in and this has made all the difference. Let’s continue to do so for the future of our NHS.”

Charlotte Monro, 31st March 2015

Report from Charlotte’s Employment Tribunal 20 March 2015

Report from Charlotte’s  Employment Tribunal  20 March 2015 

Charlotte Monro’s tribunal hearing finished this week and the panel  is now considering  the outcome. The public seats were packed with colleagues, campaigners, friends, family who came to give support and sat gripped through the hours of evidence. The legal team provided by her union UNISON did a fantastic job. For all of us who were there it has been a powerful experience.

Listening to the evidence it became clear that Charlotte had been dismissed because she was an effective trade union rep who had spoken out in a public and that the disciplinary process and sacking were initiated by the senior leadership team or HR and not by her own manager.

The current difficulties Whipps Cross Hospital and Barts Health Trust are in is headline news. An exodus of experienced staff and heavy reliance on agency workers has, as people feared, impacted on patient care. The Care Quality Commission is clear the problem lies in a cultural and leadership issue not with front line staff, and points to the 2013 down banding of nursing staff. Charlotte’s suspension from key trade union duties took place as this was being prepared. Her dismissal cannot in our view be separated from of the culture of bullying and intimidation that has continued to put staff in fear of speaking out.

Reinstatement of Charlotte would be a very real step in moving away from this negative culture and we believe would help to restore staff morale at Whipps Cross.

In the course of the tribunal very important questions have been explored.

On the last day the Trust formally conceded that Charlotte’s speaking at scrutiny committee did amount to a protected disclosure (whistle blowing). She had spoken of concerns over cuts to the excellent Whipps Cross stroke service.

The judge said the tribunal would consider whether or not disciplinary action on any of the other issues would be likely to have been taken if it were not for the claimant speaking at scrutiny, and noted that it was within days of this the disciplinary process was launched.

On the question of a trade union rep talking to staff about their jobs being at risk before the official launch of consultation, the judge identified the potential conflict of interest between the obligations of TU representatives to the people they represent, and an obligation of confidentiality set by an employer.

Charlotte’s past convictions and the fact that they were spent convictions other than in the specific employment context where they should have been declared was a point of focus for the tribunal. The judge was clearly of the view that the specific context of political protests etc. and the circumstances should have been takin into account in considering whether they were relevant to her present employment and long successful career.

Charlotte’s barrister submitted that her dismissal for not declaring spent convictions was a breach of article eight of the human rights act, the right to private and family life. She explained that work is part of a person’s private life because it becomes part of your identity, and that once a conviction is spent it becomes part of private life; therefore a decision to refuse NHS  employment (or to dismiss an employee) as a result  of spent convictions must be considered very carefully and taken only if  genuinely necessary e.g. because of risk to patients. Charlotte’s managers, provided evidence that they were completely confident that Charlotte posed no risk to patients and public; on the contrary they  stated that she did her job extremely well and demonstrated great integrity.

The dismissal was therefore argued to be a breach of Bart’s duty as a public body to uphold human rights.

It was with great concern that we noticed that at least 6 other staff members from Bart’s  were at the Tribunal premises  attending their own Employment Tribunals at the same time as Charlotte.

We await the result of the Employment Tribunal.

Support for Charlotte Monro

We’re very pleased by the support that has been received from other Trade Unionists, activists and the community.

The Save Lewisham Hospital campaign have been very supportive throughout and their page shows how the campaign has progressed: www.savelewishamhospital.com/reinstate-charlotte-monro/

Max Watson, UNISON rep from London Metropolitan University, has also put up this page: maxwatsonunison.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/charlotte-monro-employment-tribunal.html?m=1

Just to remind you the details are as follows:

Charlotte Monro’s Employment Tribunal has been re-scheduled  and will now take place  from:
Monday 19th January until Friday 23 January.
The tribunal is expected to go on for five  days: we may get a decision on Friday
We plan to hold a support gathering outside the Tribunal  venue  on TUESDAY 20th January from 09.30 to 10.00.
We aim to make some brief speeches, take some pictures and hopefully  be photographed by  the press.
It would be great if as many of you as possible could come along to support on the day. The show of support made such a difference to Charlotte last time and was noted by the press.
We have some placards and the Reinstate Charlotte banner.
Please bring Trade Union and campaign banners and placards ….but please no party banners or placards.
The venue is Anchorage House, Clove Crescent, London E14 2 BE 
From Docklands Light Railway station  East India :  Anchorage House is across the bridge which crosses Aspen way.
We suggest assembling at 09.15 as the rally will be short and should be over a little after 10.00 when the tribunal starts.
Thank you so much for your support
In solidarity
The Reinstate  Charlotte Campaign

Charlotte Monro – tribunal details

Charlotte Monro’s tribunal against unfair dismissal is scheduled for 19th January after being rescheduled from September 2014.

It will now take place from  Monday 19th January until Friday 23 January.  The tribunal is expected to go on for five  days :   we may get a decision on Friday.

We plan to hold a support gathering outside the Tribunal  venue  on TUESDAY 20th January from 09.30 to 10.00. We aim to make some brief speeches, take some pictures and hopefully  be photographed by  the press.

It would be great if as many of you as possible could come along to support on the day. The show of support  made such a difference to Charlotte last time and was noted by the press.

We have some placards and the Reinstate Charlotte banner. Please bring Trade Union and campaign banners and placards ….but please no party banners or placards.

The venue is Anchorage House, Clove Crescent, London E 14 2 BE. From Docklands Light Railway station  East India :  Anchorage House is across the bridge which crosses Aspen way.

We suggest assembling at 09.15 as the rally will be short and should be over a little after 10.00 when the  tribunal starts.

If you have any questions please contact the campaign email address: reinstatecharlotte@gmail.com


Please sign the petition in support of Charlotte.

Here is a bulletin and video previously issued by Charlotte’s campaign outlining the issues:

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

Shooting the messenger: Why the bullying of Charlotte Monro is bad for patient care

We’re happy to have this article by Roger Kline to share on our website.

In the NHS as a whole 22% of staff reported they were bullied last year. Bullying is bad for staff and bad for patients since bullied staff are less likely to admit errors and less likely to raise concerns. The treatment of a well regarded OT in a London Trust shows how it can impact on patient care.

A few months ago I met Charlotte Monro, an occupational therapist who had worked for 26 years at Whipps Cross hospital in east London – and for the NHS for ten years before then. She is a highly regarded Occupational Therapist who also happens to be a UNISON representative. Her NHS Trust (Barts) has an enormous PFI debt, and had embarked on widespread cuts, one of which was to merge two stroke wards, losing almost a third of the beds as well as a small specialist gym, essential to help ambulate stroke patients.

Charlotte, as a union rep on behalf of other unions, and therapy and nursing staff on the stroke ward, was asked to explain to the local Waltham Forest Council health scrutiny committee why staff felt this proposal was flawed. Such Scrutiny Committees have a statutory accountability for public health and integrating social services for returning patients to the community. For accepting the invitation Charlotte was subjected to disciplinary action, charged with bringing the trust into disrepute by providing “inaccurate information” and eventually sacked.

The decision to discipline Charlotte for speaking to them was seen as ludicrous by councilors. That charge was eventually abandoned by the Trust but not before they went on a “fishing trip” and eventually “discovered” from 1969 – 1977] (yes  – 36 to 44 years ago) conviction for assaulting police and minor convictions dating back to protests back in the 70s, claiming she had never registered them with the Trust. They also brought two other allegations relating to union activity, on one of which she was dismissed. Bizarrely, the Trust now agree she had the right to speak to the scrutiny committee, but it is clear that it was her disclosures that annoyed the Trust.

It is hard to believe that Charlotte would have been dismissed (or even disciplined) if she had not shared the concerns of staff in the department – and users of the service – with the Scrutiny Committee. After all, Charlotte Monro won an award for outstanding service in 2009 and had many years of good industrial relations with managers at Whipps Cross before Whipps Cross joined Barts.

The Trust have turned a long standing loyal member of staff into a victimised whistleblower. There are many wonderful staff at Barts and no doubt plenty of good managers. But Barts staff were less than fulsome in their views on the Trust in the last 2013 national NHS staff survey which suggest Charlotte’s treatment reflects deeper problems. In Barts, a remarkable 29% (almost 3 in 10) of the staff said they were bullied by staff and managers last year.

Barts is in the worst 20% of all NHS Trusts for the proportion of staff:

  • who would recommend the trust as a place to work or receive treatment
  • who reported experiencing harassment, bullying or abuse from staff in last 12 mths
  • who suffered work-related stress in last 12 months
  • who experiencing discrimination at work in last 12 months
  • who reported job satisfaction

Perhaps most worryingly of all, only 62% of Barts staff said they would feel safe in raising their concerns – well below the national average.  Even worse, only 41% of Barts staff said they would feel confident that the organisation would address their concerns.

Charlotte Monro was a senior UNISON rep and shared her colleagues concerns (about the impact of cuts on patients) with those who have a statutory accountability for the impact of such cuts. She was sacked for “serious misconduct”. There is a widespread view that she should be hailed as a heroine for doing what her duty of care required her to do? Instead her treatment may well make staff even more fearful of raising concerns

The current review by Sir Robert Francis is recognition of how serious the problem of the treatment of whistleblowers is. Employment Tribunals are not the places to settle patient safety and care concerns. The odds are stacked against those who raise concerns and union representatives. But Charlotte has no choice. Her case starts on 23rd September. Let’s hope the Tribunal takes proper notice of the workplace culture that Charlotte’s treatment is symptomatic of. Bullying is toxic for good patient care.  But if Charlotte wins it will be good news for patients at Barts.

Roger Kline is a Director of Patients First

Reinstate Charlotte Monro!

Reinstate Charlotte Monro!

First Published on 5 December 2013

This is Charlotte’s speech to the rally held outside the London hospital on December 4th 2013.

Here we see Charlotte elaborate on the background events leading up to her sacking, putting this in context of the current all-round onslaught on the NHS as a whole and calls on the health workers and the community to step up the work to defend and safeguard the future of the NHS

Video courtesy of Stuart Monro.