The claimant was a health visitor. Her workload was not to exceed 200 children in her care. It went up to 230 to 240 children as a result of severe staff shortage.
At a performance review with her manager, she mentioned the difficulties she had had and broke down in tears. Her managers promised to keep the effect of the workload on her wellbeing under regular review to prevent her becoming too stressed. However, her workload increased again and she suffered a psychiatric breakdown.
Held: Bursting into tears at a review was not the normal behaviour of a normally robust and hardworking employee when discussing their workload. While such behaviour was not a symptom of illness it was a sign that she was under stress and also that that stress was beginning to affect her and that if it continued or got worse her wellbeing might be adversely affected. It was for this reason that her manager correctly recorded her concerns at the review.
On the evidence, her workload was not properly kept under review. Her injury was foreseeable and could have been prevented by the exercise of reasonable care. She received £12,500 general damages for her injury.
The claimant’s barrister was Graham Aldous from 9 Gough Square .
Tina Marie Hiles -v- South Gloucestershire NHS Primary Care Trust (2006)
Comment: Both the above cases involve tears at work as a clue or trigger for a duty of care for employees with previous excellent records. There was lots more evidence than that by way of memos etc – and full judgments are available for both cases- but Simon Dewsbury wonders if the courts may be loosening up on foreseeability of injury.