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Side effects of speaking up as a social worker

Eleanor* was a social worker, whose work often brought her to her local hospital to work with patients. Over time, she grew increasingly uneasy about patient safety, and decisions not being taken in the best interests of vulnerable people. She felt that a manager appeared to be discharging patients who weren’t ready to go home. To make matters worse, Eleanor realised this was being done to manipulate the figures and make that manager look like she was doing an effective job.

When Eleanor spoke up, she believed she was doing the right thing, but was not prepared for the impact this would have on her work and career. Within a month, she was subjected to a series of spurious and damaging conduct allegations, all without evidence. This was the beginning of a multi-year battle with her employer. She was suspended, and the stress of the situation became so severe that she was forced to take long periods of unpaid sick leave and eventually take early retirement.

She went through two legal battles: an employment tribunal and a personal injury case in which her employer admitted full liability. It was at the end of this claim that Eleanor called Protect for help. Eleanor had found lawyers who helped with her legal claims in the tribunal, but no one who could help her address the underlying issues of patient safety at the hospital.

What worried her more than anything was that, through all of this, her concerns had been completely ignored. She had constantly raised the issues to her employer, the hospital, and the relevant regulators, but to no effect. She was worried about the affected patients, and the poor culture of care that had put them at risk of harm.

We explained the various ways she could put pressure on the hospital to address the issue, assessing the pros and cons. With Protect’s help, Eleanor wrote to her local MP to report the concerns. He was shocked at what he heard and contacted the regulator on her behalf. Eventually, the regulator was persuaded to re-open an investigation, and Eleanor has since been interviewed regarding the matter.

The investigation is ongoing.

*Name has been changed at request of the individual.