Leona Harris: Coronavirus nurse given grounds for appeal after ‘unjust’ investigation

LEONA Harris, the nurse dubbed The Angel of the North thanks to her work during the pandemic, has been given grounds for an appeal against an ‘unjust’ investigation.

In an Employment Appeal Tribunal appeal hearing that took place on Tuesday January 5, virtually from the Rolls Building, Fettel Lane, London the judge, Her Honour Katherine Tucker decided that Mrs Harris had the right to appeal on the grounds of a ‘precipitous referral’, meaning that the investigation against her had been launched unfairly and prematurely.

For Mrs Harris, who launched the appeal after an initial employment tribunal in October ruled against her in favour of East Lancashire Health Trust, and who has worked on the front line for much of the coronavirus crisis, this has come as a huge relief.

She said: “Hopefully, fingers crossed things will start to get a little better now and eventually we’ll get there.”

She added: “We’ve had to work on this every weekend and at every spare moment since all this started and we just want to have our lives back.”

Mrs Harris, from Rossendale, first rose to prominence during the early stages of the pandemic after leading a campaign to help secure iPads for patients stuck in isolation at Fairfield General Hospital in Bury, where she worked, before the campaign quickly grew as more and more people were inspired by her efforts.

The Westmorland Gazette:

Leona Harris has worked on the frontline throughout much of the pandemic

Mrs Harris ending up raising over £70,000 and donating to over 50 hospitals

Her campaign saw her honoured with various accolades including being shortlisted for the Florence Nightingale Nurse of the Year Award and being selected to take part in the Blackpool Illuminations virtual switch on.

However, she was shocked to find not long afterwards that she had been referred by East Lancashire NHS Hospitals Trust to the Nursing and Midwifery Council for investigation after an incident in which she potentially saved a patient’s life but found that the relevant paperwork had been inadvertently overlooked.

The incident occurred in 2017, however the referral from the trust to the Nursing and Midwifery Council was only made this year, with Mrs Harris herself only informed this autumn, after she had already been working as an agency nurse throughout the coronavirus crisis.

Now though, this week’s hearing ruled that Mrs Harris has the right to appeal that the investigation was launched ‘precipitously’, that she was not given the proper opportunity to complete what would normally be a standard ‘reflective process’ after the incident and that she had been treated unfairly.

Husband Nick said: “This is a really welcome decision, and we look forward to the next hearing and hopefully a favourable outcome.”

The timing of the appeal hearing has yet to be decided.

The Westmorland Gazette | North Lancs