Former West Suffolk Hospital head of midwifery loses appeal over dismissal

West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds.  Picture: Mark Westley.
West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mark Westley.

A former midwifery boss at West Suffolk Hospital accused of creating a ‘culture of fear’ has lost an appeal over her dismissal.

An employment tribunal has awarded in favour of the hospital in a case brought by its former head of midwifery, referred to as Ms P Davis.

Ms Davis, head of midwifery since October 2000, was dismissed in January 2017 on the grounds of gross misconduct.

Independent investigator Alison Dalby, who the hospital employed to look at allegations against Ms Davis, found she had created a ‘culture of fear’; that she had exhibited, encouraged or tolerated managerial bullying of employees and failed to provide managerial support to her team.

Witnesses working in the midwifery department were interviewed as part of the hospital’s disciplinary process, which was launched after anonymous letters about Ms Davis’ conduct were received in 2015.

Daisy Hamilton, labour ward manager, said staff were discouraged from reporting concerns about safe staffing levels and it was common to work long hours without proper breaks or anything to eat or drink.

Midwife Jo Sarah described Ms Davis’ behaviour as ‘a bit like domestic violence’.

Lynda Brignall, midwife, said inappropriate deployment of staff meant ‘the safety of care was sometimes compromised’, while midwife Colleen Grimwood said she had felt bullied.

The tribunal, held in Bury St Edmunds, looked into the hospital’s disciplinary process and evidence. Its report said: “Many of the witnesses interviewed described a culture of poor staffing, long hours and an inability to take breaks.”

It added: “The panel found that the management of staffing levels caused unnecessary and unacceptable risks to both staff and patient safety.”

The tribunal concluded that Mrs Davis was not wrongfully or unfairly dismissed and found in favour of the hospital.

Jan Bloomfield, West Suffolk Hospital director of workforce and communications, said: “We are pleased that this employment tribunal has been awarded in our favour.

“We took swift action to deal with the serious issues of this case when they were reported to us.

“We are confident that this case is reflective of an individual’s behaviour and is absolutely not representative of the culture of our maternity unit or the wider trust.”