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Case Studies

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Facing the sack when you have done nothing wrong

Published 17 July 2017

So when Sharon, a GP’s receptionist in Derbyshire, faced an allegation of breaching patient confidentiality, given her role, she believed it was as bad as things could get.

She knew the allegations were false but was left angry, frustrated, hurt, let down and feeling isolated after attending an investigation interview and then being notified she was required to attend a disciplinary hearing.

A patient, who was just over seven months pregnant, made a complaint to the GP practice. The patient alleged that Sharon informed a male friend, who was known to both women, that she was pregnant

The patient in a letter to support the complaint explained that she had a general conversation with the man during which he asked about her pregnancy, after earlier saying he had spoken to Sharon ‘the other day’..

At no stage did the patient state that the man said Sharon told him about the pregnancy.

Sharon was adamant during the investigation meeting with the practice manager that she did not breach confidentiality, and there was no evidence to substantiate the claim she did.

However, the notification to attend the disciplinary hearing stated the allegation if proven may amount to gross misconduct and result in dismissal.

Sharon was fearful and contacted Castle Associates for help. Our representative reviewed the evidence, which amounted to the letter of complaint and an email from the patient that was sent after Sharon’s investigation meeting.

The email claimed that the woman had not told the man she was pregnant, her bump was not very evident and as he said he had spoken to Sharon days earlier she must have told him.

Our representative pointed out to the GP chairing the disciplinary hearing that there was no evidence whatsoever to support the allegation, which was clearly based on a misplaced assumption.

Sharon had also made our representative aware that there were pictures on Facebook of the patient when she was six months pregnant and her bump was prominent and clearly visible.

The employer was presented with the images and our representative argued that it would have been very clear to the man that the patient was pregnant at the time he spoke to her.

The employer adjourned the disciplinary hearing and after a short break reconvened to inform Sharon that the allegation was unproven and the matter would not be taken any further.

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