A nurse faces the sack after making allegations on Facebook that her managers were closing down an NHS hospital.

South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust claims that there are no plans to close Biggleswade Hospital, an NHS hospital in Bedfordshire. However, Bernadette Green, a nurse who commenced employment at Biggleswade Hospital 12 years ago, posted on Facebook earlier this month that the Whitbread ward of the Hospital was only servicing two patients and that managers were stopping more patients from being admitted. She was later suspended from her job and is still currently suspended.

Whistleblowing in the NHS

Ms Green’s has been argued to be one that revolves around whistleblowing in the NHS. In order to make a claim for detriment or dismissal because of whistleblowing a worker (or employee) must demonstrate that a qualifying disclosure has been made which relates to a criminal offence, a failure to comply with a legal obligation, or that the health or safety of any one individual is being endangered (among other things). She could possibly argue that her claim involves danger to the health and safety of any individual, seeking to show that the closure of the hospital is endangering lives. However, this would be a fairly tenuous argument.

Should the nurse succeed in showing that a qualifying disclosure had been made she must demonstrate that she made it to her employer or to some other responsible person, so that it could be deemed a protected disclosure. Posting on Facebook would (it is almost certain) not qualify her statement to be a protected disclosure.

Social media policy in the NHS

What this case also demonstrates is that employers, including the NHS, must have specific policies set up to address the potential problems that social media can cause to them, including whistleblowing in the NHS. A failure to have a clear and concise social media policy could mean that statements such as the one that Ms Green made could render disciplinary action unfair. In particular, if the NHS failed to have a social media policy in place and Ms Green was dismissed then she could credibly make a claim for unfair dismissal.

Direct2Lawyers use specialist no win no fee unfair dismissal lawyers.

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The Direct 2 Lawyers Employment Team post daily on interesting employment law cases, Employment Tribunal judgments and Employment Appeal Tribunal judgments. All of the Employment Team posts are written by qualified specialist employment lawyers

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