Hospital worker beats the bullies to win claim25 February 2009
NHS hospital trust told to dig deep for damages after UNISON member suffered a nervous breakdown because of bullying.
Nanette Bowen, 55, from Llanelli, has been unable to return to work after being bullied and harassed over a three-year-period.
UNISON, the UK’s largest public sector union, helped the information manager at the Prince Philip Hospital, Llanelli, take action against her employer.
And the Llanelli Hospital Trust has been found negligent in allowing the long-term harassment to take place and lead to a staff breakdown.
Mrs Bowen, who was responsible for reporting on hospital waiting lists and providing information to assist with budgetary decisions, had worked at the trust for more than 28 years.
She worked her way up the ranks, from porter to information manager, reporting directly to the chief executive of the Trust.
In 2000 Eric Lewis became her boss, following a merger of Llanelli and Dinefwr Trusts to become Camarthenshire NHS.
Over the next three years Mrs Bowen said her life became hell, as she was not allowed to provide any information without her boss’ written consent, was asked to fill in a daily form, so he could see what work she was doing, and had her responsibility to hire staff removed.
Mr Lewis was aggressive towards her when challenged, made sexual innuendos and banned her from attending important meetings vital to her job.
She was signed off sick with stress and, on occasions when she tried to return to work, she suffered panic attacks.
At one point she was rushed to hospital with a suspected heart attack.
Mrs Bowen decided to take action through UNISON, who took the claim to Swansea County Court, where Carmarthenshire NHS Trust was found liable.
Mrs Bowen, who had been the main breadwinner in the family, said:
“The NHS was my life. I had always felt great loyalty to the Trust and worked to the best of my ability in everything I did.
“I feel bitterly let down by the Trust, which did not do its best to support me when I needed it most.
“My life has been ruined by what I went through during those three years.
“At this stage I cannot contemplate returning to any form of work and I am still receiving counselling to help me control my panic attacks.
“Without the support of my family and colleagues I would not be here now.”
Dave Galligan, UNISON’s Head of Health in Wales, said:
“It is disgraceful that this bullying and harassment continued for so long and led to a severe breakdown.
“I am pleased that UNISON has helped Mrs Bowen win her fight for justice.
“The compensation will go some way towards making up for the horrendous situation she was put in.
“Despite her complaints, nothing was done to improve her situation.
“As a result Mrs Bowen has suffered terribly and the NHS has lost a skilled and dedicated worker.
“This case is a warning to employers that they need to listen to their employees’ concerns and act sooner rather than later, or face the consequences.”
Amanda Jones, from Thompsons Solicitors in Swansea who fought the claim on behalf of UNISON, added:
"Work related stress cases, particularly those involving bullying and harassment are very difficult to prove.
“I am very happy for Mrs Bowen that after a long fought legal battle she has had the outcome she deserves.
“This case highlights the benefit of the legal services which are offered free to all UNISON members.