NHS settles with nurse sacked for speaking to journalist

A Manchester psychiatric nurse has agreed an out-of-court settlement with the NHS trust which fired her for speaking publicly about her fears over privatisation to a journalist.

Karen Reissmann, 49, had claimed unfair dismissal by her employers, Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust, who sacked her for gross misconduct.

Both parties have now reached a private agreement midway through her employment tribunal hearing.

Reissmann, a community psychiatric nurse with more than 25 years of experience in the field, was suspended in June 2007.

Following her sacking Reissman, who was also an official for the union Unison, said: “If I’m not allowed to speak to a journalist because I’m criticising a section of NHS policy, then essentially criticism of the Government and its policies stops. I don’t think it’s in the interests of journalism, the patients, the NHS or the staff.

‘The trust says it wants bad news stories to stop – we say the way to stop them is to stop doing bad things. We’re not prepared to keep quiet.”

The article was printed in Internal Enterprise, a small Manchester-based magazine for the local enterprise industry which is no longer running.

Reissman told journalist Sarah Irving that she opposed parts of the trust’s work being tendered out to local, not-for-profit firms.

The piece was for a special feature on social enterprise, and Irving said she had no idea that the trust would react so strongly.

She told Press Gazette: ‘We had several articles written for the feature from people who thought social enterprise was positive, but we very much felt that, because there was controversy over this, it was appropriate to also run something critical.

‘I think the reaction is disproportionate – it’s an attempt to stop union reps speaking out in the press.

“If trade union stewards can’t speak in broad terms about government policy then who can?”

The trust found the Unison branch representative guilty of gross misconduct over her comments and she was sacked in November 2007, which prompted a month-long strike by colleagues.

Announcing settlement of the case, Paul Gilroy QC, representing the trust, said today: “Karen Reissmann was dismissed by Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust for gross misconduct for matters unrelated to clinical practice.

“The parties are satisfied the dispute has been resolved and the Employment Tribunal procedures are at an end by agreement being reached at their mutual satisfaction. No further comment will be made by either parties.”

Tribunal chairman Michael Coles said: “This case did involve allegations of inappropriate comments to the press.

“It is important that the tribunal, by reason of settlement, has made no finding whatsoever whether the allegation of gross misconduct was made out. There has been a great deal of effort put into this resolution by both parties.”

No details of the private agreement were revealed to the press although it is understood Reissmann will not be returning to work at the trust as she had wished.

Following the hearing in Manchester, Alec McFadden, president of Merseyside TUC, which has supported Ms Reissman throughout the dispute, said: “Karen starts a new life from here. We are pleased it has been resolved. Each side appears happy with the agreement.

“Hopefully Karen will be able to get a job in the the future back in the NHS. Their patients need her.”

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