A nurse says she can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel over a year after being unfairly sacked due to abuse allegations.
Pamela Benton was dismissed from Queen’s House residential home in Kelso in September 2017 after a colleague accused her of mistreating patients, including claims she kicked and pushed residents to get them to move.
However, an employment tribunal has now found that bosses at the private care home in Angraflat Road did not have reasonable grounds to believe the 51-year-old was guilty of abuse.
Awarding Mrs Benton almost £27,000 in compensation, judge Amanda Jones criticised the home for its “fundamentally-flawed” disciplinary process and questioned the credibility of senior staff members.
In a written judgment on the case, Ms Jones said she had “no hesitation in concluding that Mrs Benton’s dismissal was both procedurally and substantively unfair”.
She added that the tribunal was not satisfied that Queen’s House management genuinely believed Mrs Benton was guilty of the alleged acts that resulted in her dismissal.
Mrs Benton told us: “When this nightmare started, I felt like I’d fallen down a rabbit hole. I can now, finally, see the light at the end of the tunnel and I can start applying for nursing jobs again.”
Mrs Benton, of Kelso, joined Queen’s House as a care assistant in October 2007, later training as a nurse following encouragement from the then matron in 2012.
“I had always wanted to be a nurse, but life worked out differently. When I got the opportunity, it was like a dream come true,” she said.
That dream turned into a nightmare in July 2017 when she took a call from the home’s executive care director, Jane Douglas, to say she was being suspended.
“I had a medical problem and had to have an operation at the Borders General Hospital,” she said. “That was on the Wednesday and I got the phone call on the Thursday night. I assumed they were phoning to say are you OK, but they said I was being suspended.
“It was a complete bolt from the blue. I couldn’t believe it, I was absolutely devastated. I hadn’t a clue what I was supposed to have done.”
Five weeks later, she was called to an investigatory hearing with private human resources firm HRFace2Face but was told she had no statutory right to be accompanied by her union representative, a claim criticised by the tribunal.
“I was on my own. I didn’t know who these people were, and I was asked such general questions I still didn’t know what I was supposed to have done,” Mrs Benton said.
“It was only when I saw the report that I finally found out. I then had to start trying to find evidence for the things they had accused me of. I still thought, because I hadn’t done this, nothing further would come of it.”
However, on the advice of HRFace2Face, Dr Douglas then dismissed Mrs Benton.
In her judgement, Ms Jones described Dr Douglas’s evidence as unreliable and said she was not satisfied that she was a credible witness.
She was also scathing about Ray Jones, chairman of the home’s board of trustees, saying his treatment of the matter had been “cavalier”.
After she was sacked, Mrs Benton couldn’t get a nursing job and instead found work at Farne Salmon in Duns. Now she says she just wants to move on with her life.
“It’s almost two years on and I still don’t know why someone would say those things about me,” she said.
“I couldn’t have got through it without the support of my friends and family, and those who believed in me.
“Now I can finally move on and hopefully get back to doing what I love – nursing.”
Bosses at Queen’s House were unavailable for comment.