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Friday, 25 July 2014

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Tribunal hears of doctor's 'wrong colour for Cumbria' claim

A high-flying senior nurse was told to “go back to where she came from” if she wanted a top job in nursing, a tribunal has heard.

Sarina Saigar photo
Sarina Saigar

Dr Sarina Saiger, whose father moved to the UK from India in 1959, was also labelled the “wrong colour” to be a director of nursing in Cumbria, it was claimed.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council heard that Bruce Skilbeck, who was director of nursing for north Cumbria, allegedly made the remarks to Dr Saiger, one of his deputies, during a 2005 appraisal into her performance.

Skilbeck, who is now retired, has been hauled before a misconduct hearing charged with two counts of misconduct against Dr Saiger, said to be racially motivated.

He allegedly made the remark to Dr Saiger while working for North Cumbria Acute Hospitals NHS Trust at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital.

The hearing was told that Skilbeck told Dr Saiger, she was “the wrong colour and culture for Cumbria” during a campaign of racially-motivated victimisation.

An employment tribunal has already ruled in Dr Saiger’s favour in 16 of 27 complaints and awarded her £115,000 in damages. The tribunal found she had been subjected to an “intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”.

Skilbeck is accused of making the remark on November 3, 2005, and of grabbing Dr Saiger’s arm on May 31, 2007.

Dr Saiger, who was then assistant director of nursing, said: “After a brief resume of the work I had been doing, he said technically I was the most brilliant nurse he had ever worked with but that I would never be a director of nursing in Cumbria because I was the wrong colour and wrong culture for the organisation. He said I needed to go back to where I came from to get a director of nursing position.”

Halifax-born Dr Saiger had been parachuted into the trust in 2004 to raise standards as assistant director of nursing.

She had excelled academically and harboured ambitions of going on to the top job, but was shot down by Skilbeck in the appraisal meeting.

A tearful Dr Saiger told yesterday how she was working in an increasingly hostile environment.

She said: “I was finding things out after the event, excluded from meetings.”

Eventually, Dr Saiger launched a grievance against the trust.

But a prolonged investigation delivered a “whitewash” which absolved senior managers of blame, she said. She said: “It was just a farce really.”

The hearing into Skilbeck’s alleged misconduct continues.

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