Senior nurse accused of tipping patient off mattress
A SENIOR nurse who helped pioneer a new form of learning disability care was sacked following allegations of bullying, harassment, unlawful discrimination and intimidation.
Mark Thorneycroft, aged 45, also stands accused of tipping a patient off a mattress and sweeping patients off their feet.
Now Mr Thorneycroft is suing his ex-employer, NHS Combined Healthcare Trust for unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal, where he is fighting the claims.
The nurse was sacked in September 2011, months after he had been suspended together with several other staff heading a new rehabilitation programme for patients with severe learning disabilities.
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Based at the trust's Chebsey Close home in Bucknall, the system – involving intensive 'talking therapies' to help patients return to the community – was subsequently dropped.
On the opening day of the week-long hearing in Birmingham, Combined's bosses said they had taken disciplinary action against Mr Thorneycroft, from Brown Edge, to 'keep patients safe'.
They said they acted on fears voiced by colleagues and others. Leadership and workforce director Caroline Donovan said: "All actions we have taken have been in the interest of our patients' safety and to ensure they are treated with dignity and respect at all times – key elements of the care provided to vulnerable patients.
"We are confident we have acted appropriately in the circumstances.
"This has been a complex case which has addressed a number of serious concerns raised by both NHS staff and other individuals about the actions and attitudes of the former member of staff."
However, Piers Martin, representing Mr Thorneycroft, said the accusations were 'woefully' lacking in detail and exact dates.
"Of 36 NHS witnesses only one makes reference to the alleged 'patient tipping' incident, " Mr Martin said.
"Furthermore, a large number of witnesses failed to sign their statements and there is conflict about who is responsible for upholding the allegations."
Mr Martin also questioned the legitimacy of the investigation. Shortly before the case opened on Wednesday, Combined issued a statement to staff saying: "The disciplinary action was taken on the back of evidence that the individual had breached the high standards expected by the trust, set out in its policies.
"Such action was deemed to be 'acts of gross misconduct'.
"It is the trust's highest priority to ensure all people using its services are treated with dignity and respect, and receive safe quality care at all times."
Mr Thorneycroft, who was sacked following an internal disciplinary hearing, was due to present his case and call witnesses today, and on Monday. Two days have then been set aside for the panel, chaired by Judge Hilary Harding, to read more evidence before a verdict is expected later next week.
A national review team recommended the trust tell the public that the disciplinary action against the Chebsey Close clinicians was not linked to any abuse allegations.
The trust had said it was purely about 'management style and culture.'