Stress at work claim: GP wins compensation

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Injury lawyer Elizabeth Duncan has recently succeeded in recovering compensation in a stress at work claim for a General Practitioner. The GP had suffered bullying at work to the extent that she suffered debilitating psychological symptoms.

The doctor had moved to the South West to take up employment with a GP practice in 2013. She had been promised partnership opportunities as well as the ability to continue with her areas of specific interest and specialism.

Unfortunately things were difficult from the outset. The practice failed to provide a proper job description, induction, work space or equipment. Her workload was much higher than she had been led to expect and she was not provided with adequate “protected time” in which to undertake mandatory training and professional development. There were various difficulties with the surgery’s software and administration which meant that she became worried about patient safety. She found herself working increasingly long hours to care for her patients.

The GP also suffered bullying from a number of the partners of the practice from early on in her employment. This included continual and persistent increase of her workload, questioning her professional judgment, undermining her, discouraging comments about her abilities and refusing to listen to her in meetings and reviews when she would be “shouted down”. They sought to change her contract to one with significantly poorer terms, including more work and a lower salary. She was told that there was no longer a partnership opportunity available and the work involving her special interests was removed.

Things became increasingly difficult for our client and she involved the British Medical Association, asking that they attend future meetings. The partners reassured our client that this was not necessary but then ambushed her in meetings with aggressive demands and criticism.

Our client was becoming increasingly unwell. She was often tearful at work. She suffered panic attacks and struggled to sleep. She also suffered from physical symptoms of stress including gastric discomfort.

She was ultimately signed off sick. She saw a psychiatrist for treatment because of the severity of her symptoms and was advised not to return to the abusive working environment.

During her absence from work our client was harassed by the practice who persisted in sending her frequent correspondence and insisting on meeting with her even though this was against medical advice and she had appointed representatives to deal with things for her. Matters culminated with the practice referring our client to the GMC on spurious grounds. Our client was completely cleared, but was left exhausted and very unwell.

It was against this background that she asked us to pursue the stress at work claim for compensation in relation to the psychiatric injury she had suffered as well as the resultant lost earnings and treatment expenses.

We agreed to deal with the stress at work claim on a no win, no fee basis and a detailed Letter of Claim was sent to the practice, who in turn instructed a firm of solicitors.

The claim was strenuously denied, the practice arguing that all of their actions had been reasonable.

Fortunately our client had kept detailed records of everything that had happened. This meant we were able to put forward very specific allegations about what the practice had done wrong and the acts of bullying that had taken place.

There was also a vast amount of documentation to support our client’s case. This included the many notes and records kept by our client as well as files of documents from the BMA and GMC. We obtained all of these.

It was difficult to obtain witness evidence from her former colleagues, especially those who were still employed by the practice and were fearful for their jobs. However we persisted and managed to obtain a number of supportive witness statements from a number of past and current employees. We also approached the BMA representatives who had assisted our client.

An independent psychiatrist was asked to examine our client and prepare a full medical report about the injury she had suffered.

The Defendants continued to deny any wrongdoing. We therefore issued the claim in court.

The Defendants maintained their denial, serving a formal Defence refuting the claim. We continued to press forward maintaining our client’s position and preparing the case for trial.

Following a procedural court hearing the Defendants finally decided to make some concessions, putting forward an offer of £25,000. This was rejected as it was simply too low to compensate our client for the psychological injury she had suffered. However, it was a starting point and following further negotiations an out of court settlement was eventually reached.

Our client was delighted with the outcome, saying that she felt vindicated and like a huge weight had been taken off her shoulders.

If you require guidance on making a stress at work claim then call our free legal helpline on 0800 955 1038 or email us at info@sbclaims.co.uk