“£500,000” cost of NHS legal fight

Andrea Collitt, Chief Reporter / 05:00 Monday 29 February 2016 / News
THE cost to the public purse is the latest chapter in a bitter legal row between a health trust and a nurse.

Eddie Bone’s solicitor alleges the North Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust has shelled out £500,000 of taxpayers’ money on the legal fight.

Mr Bone, a nurse, recently won the right to compensation after bosses made only ‘limp and ineffectual’ efforts to protect him.

But the costs of the legal battle have been refuted by the trust, which has a predicted £3.3million deficit for the current financial year.

The tribunal case, which started in 2011, heard Mr Bone was ‘the leading light’ in the Workers of England Union (WEU), a small trade union which was not recognised by the trust.

Tensions between Mr Bone and representatives of giant union Unison festered and he was ‘marginalised’ and ‘socially ostracised’, Appeal Court judges heard.

Matters reached a head in 2010 when he stood as an English Democrats party general election candidate in Colchester.
A Unison representative suggested that the WEU was linked to fascism and the British National Party, the Court of Appeal heard.

A nursing colleague called Mr Bone a bigot and Unison’s man was not made to apologise after a ‘hello Adolf’ quip.

A Unison branch official sent an email expressing concerns about the ‘creeping crypto fascism’ of WEU.

Mr Bone’s response was to take his complaints against the trust to an Employment Tribunal, which found he had been persecuted for his trade union activities.

The tribunal’s ruling was overturned by the Employment Appeal Tribunal in 2014, but Mr Bone appealed.

That appeal was upheld earlier this month.

Mr Bone’s solicitor Robin Tillbrook said: “The trust has been represented throughout by counsel and solicitors.

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“There was a seven-day tribunal hearing, a three to four day tribunal appeal hearing and two days at the Court of Appeal.

“We have also got a further employment tribunal hearing to assess damages.

“They have been ordered to pay our costs twice – £30,000 each time alone.”

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But a spokesman for North Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust said the alleged £500,000 total it has spent was “wildly inaccurate”.

He added: “The Trust’s solicitors were first asked to advise the Trust in 2011 when Mr Bone, who remains an employee, issued the first of six claims in the Employment Tribunal. The Trust has defended those claims. None of Mr Bone’s race discrimination allegations were upheld. The Tribunal’s finding of bullying and harassment was against Unison, not against the Trust. A further two claims are still to be heard, including allegations of race discrimination similar to the claims that have already been dismissed.”

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