Depressed psychiatrist was 'unlawfully' sacked by trust

A CONSULTANT psychiatrist was sacked by Northamptonshire's mental health trust for having a common mental illness, a scathing tribunal judgement has found.

Dr Anders Skarsten worked for the Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Trust for almost four years until he was dismissed on August 24 2006 because the trust maintained he had not applied to be on the specialists’ register, which he had to to undertake his full duties.

But a tribunal in Leicester concluded this was largely down to a series of administrative blunders beyond Dr Skarsten’s control.

The trust also accepted two of the reasons it gave Dr Skarsten for his sacking related to his severe depression.

The judgement from the tribunal read: “(The trust) accepts that the first and second reasons given in the letter of dismissal were reasons which related to Dr Skarsten’s disability in the light of the medical report… which expressly links his severe depression with forgetfulness, including, or perhaps typically, forgetfulness in checking whether his application for specialists registration had gone through.”

It concluded Dr Skarsten’s dismissal was “an unlawful act of disability discrimination”.

The judgement criticised trust board members including NHT medical director Dr Alex O’Neill-Kerr, who had a “less-than perfect understanding” of the application system, and trust board chairman Andrew Scarborough of failing to recognise Dr Skarsten would be unable to put his best case forward because of his depression.

The three-day hearing also found the trust did not follow proper procedures for a disabled person when it dismissed Dr Skarsten and branded his appeal a “travesty”.

It added: “Mr Scarborough and his colleagues do not seem to have experienced any sense of discomfort in confirming … that the original decision to dismiss was justified despite the fact that no proper investigation had been carried out.

“The respondents’ handling of the dismissal was outrageous. They flouted not only every one of the statutory provisions which we have set out above, but every consideration of common decency and humanity.

“That they did so apparently on the advice of their Human Resources Director only compounds their sins…”

A hearing to decide compensation for Dr Skarsten will be held in November. Dr Skarsten and the Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Trust refused to comment after the hearing.