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Whistle-blower receives undisclosed sum
12:00pm Monday 10th March 2003 in News
WHISTLE-BLOWING councillor Julia Wassell has received an out of court settlement from her former employers, Broadmoor Hospital.
County councillor Wassell (Lab, Keep Hill and Hicks Farm) resigned last April as women's services director at the Berkshire secure hospital for people detained under the Mental Health Act.
She blew the whistle on allegations of sexual assault of women patients by men patients, but said what followed was an aggressive attitude towards her and a string of petty disciplinary issues.
She took the hospital to court claiming constructive dismissal, and was given an undisclosed sum on February 21. She is now lecturing part time on social work and health care at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College.
West London Mental Health Trust, of which Broadmoor is a part, said the trust had settled with Cllr Wassell, but had not admitted liability. She had not been victimised, they said.
Cllr Wassell said the alleged incidents took place at meetings where men and women patients were left unsupervised. She had asked management to stop all mixed activities and to hold an inquiry.
The hospital stopped mixed activities the day after she left. They would not be reintroduced, said the trust, because the Department of Health had now issued guidance saying secure services should be single sex.
Cllr Wassell's union, UNISON, said her promising career had been cut short because she blew the whistle.
Cllr Wassell told Midweek that the last 18 months had been an ordeal. Organisations needed senior managers prepared to accept that there was something wrong and put it right, she said.
The trust said Cllr Wassell's concerns were dealt with in an open way. When she raised them in the spring of 2001 she was asked to put proposals to reduce risk to the trust's board in July. This did not happen because she had not finished the work, but in September she invoked the whistle-blowing policy.
The board then commissioned an independent review. The action plan which followed said all mixed gender activities should be suspended for a period.
The trust added that risk was a constant feature of high security hospitals.
March 10, 2003 16:30