Former midwife compensated for work-related mental breakdown
A former senior midwife has received significant compensation with the help of Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and Thompsons Solicitors after suffering a second breakdown because of stress at work.
Angela Jommo, 58, worked for South London Healthcare NHS Trust after being headhunted for a clinical midwifery manager post at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup, London. Prior to this, Angela worked for 20 years in community services, holding various management positions in midwifery departments.
During her first two years in post, the hospital underwent ‘Fit for Future’ review measures, which saw numerous maternity staff being made redundant. In addition, most of the administrative support at the hospital was significantly reduced. Angela ended up effectively acting as head of midwifery and was forced to take on substantial extra responsibility, including most of the HR and payroll duties as well as coordinating the new measures that had been put in place. As a result of her excessive workload, she suffered her first breakdown in 2006.
On her return to work in 2007 after several months off, Angela continued in her original post as clinical midwifery manager but had regular meetings with her new line manager to discuss work-related stresses and concerns.
In 2009 it was announced that the South London Healthcare NHS Trust was to merge with two nearby Trusts and that Angela’s maternity unit was to close.
Following the announcement, staff began to leave the Trust including Angela’s line manager and other senior managers, which resulted in additional responsibilities and duties being placed on top of her already demanding workload.
Angela found herself working 12-14 hour days and using her spare time and weekends to complete administrative work, during which time she became increasingly concerned about the safety of the mothers and babies in care at Queen Mary’s Hospital. She told senior management about the lack of resources but was ignored, and ended up having to take on more responsibility, which ultimately led to another breakdown in 2010.
Angela’s second breakdown meant that she lost her job and felt forced into taking early retirement at the age of 55. She then contacted her trade union, the Royal College of Midwives, who instructed Thompsons Solicitors to pursue a claim of compensation.
Thompsons’ enquiries found that Angela’s employer had failed to follow its own occupational health advice, disregarding warning signs of overwork that may cause another breakdown.
Angela said: “Working in a busy hospital maternity ward is naturally a stressful environment, yet I loved that every day was different and you would never know what was happening on the wards from one day to the next. However, the burden placed on me at Queen Mary’s Hospital was horrific and my concerns for the health of the mothers and babies under my care, as well as the terribly low morale of the staff and midwives, was too much for me to take.
“I was failed by my employer. I have been forced to give up a job I loved, a career I thrived in because my management refused to actually look at the bigger picture and see the immense problems facing the maternity unit and its staff.
“I’m so thankful for the support I received from my trade union and Thompsons, no amount of compensation can make up for what has happened to me, but settling my case has enabled me to put my time at Queen Mary’s Hospital behind me so I can move forward with my life. My solicitor at Thompsons was by my side throughout what I can only term as a very traumatic experience for me. He has believed in me and supported me and kept going that extra mile.”
Suzanne Tyler, director for services to members at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “It is extremely sad that Angela was forced to give up her successful career in midwifery because she was pushed beyond what was reasonable to expect her to cope with. The closure of a maternity unit brings with it huge additional pressures as resources are cut and moved to other hospitals, but that is no excuse for staff to be subject to unreasonable work pressure. Here, Angela’s management failed to give sufficient thought to employee wellbeing.”
Ben McBride, from Thompsons Solicitors, said: “Stress injury cases are not easy to win and this case involved focussing on at least 10 years of the client’s work and personal history. Following our investigations, we felt that Angela’s second breakdown could have been avoided if there was reasonable care and a fairer allocation of work, especially as Angela felt she was doing the jobs of three senior managers at the Trust.
“Angela’s settlement cannot repair the emotional damage that she was left with but it has forced the South London Healthcare NHS Trust to take financial responsibility for the terrible wrong that it did to its employee.”
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