Nurse accused of kissing paralysed patient and insisting he was gay wins unfair dismissal case
A tribunal has ruled that a nurse, who was fired after a paralysed patient accused him of kissing him and telling him he was gay, was unfairly dismissed.
Italian nurse Paolo Messeri was sacked from his job at The Royal Hospital For Neuro-disability in London for gross misconduct in 2020, having worked at the hospital since 2016.A tribunal has ruled that a nurse, who was fired after a paralysed patient accused him of kissing him and telling him he was gay, was unfairly dismissed.
According to his employment tribunal decision, Messeri worked mainly night shifts on a ward “caring for about 16 profoundly disabled patients resident in single occupancy rooms”.
But in 2019, one of his patients, referred to as X, accused the nurse of inappropriately touching him, pinching him, trying to kiss him, putting his fingers into X’s nose and mouth and “accusing” him of being gay.
X has locked-in syndrome, and is completely paralysed apart from some head and facial movement. He uses an eye-gaze system, which allows him to choose letters with eye movement to compose messages.
In an email to the hospital on 24 November, 2019, X wrote: “This began with pulling the hair on my arms and pinching my upper body to touching me and inserting fingers into my ears and nose and trying to kiss me and continually accusing me of being gay – I’m most definitely heterosexual and I’m not the one struggling with my sexuality!
“This highly unprofessional and unpleasant behaviour has been going on for more than a year – last night has prompted me to write this email.
“He blatantly behaved this way in front of other night staff! Other male carers have behaved this way! We can deal with it ‘in-house’ but if there is any more I won’t hesitate to contact my solicitor and the CQC and POVA and the police!”
X, who uses his head to activate a call button for help, added in a further email: “I would like it known from the beginning that I am in no way homophobic!
“While I have sympathy for his recent losses of his father and unborn child it doesn’t condone his behaviour!
“What has concerned me the most is that he physically restrained my head to prevent me from reaching the call bell and getting help!”
When a patient experience and safety officer Amanda Goodair and modern matron Ricky Mugwagwa spoke to X about his complaint, the patient added that the nurse had tried to “kiss him on the lips”, that the nurse “would laugh afterwards and accuse [him] of being gay”, and that he was “always patting my bottom and saying either ‘a big hug for you my love’ or ‘a big kiss for you my love’ as he left the room.
Messeri was suspended and subject to an investigation, during which he denied he acted inappropriately.
The nurse, who was described by co-workers as “playful”, admitted that he had hugged X, but only after receiving permission, and said that he would say things like: “You OK? You want a kiss from me?”
Lesley Mill, director of service delivery, fired Messeri in February 2020 for gross misconduct. She noted at the time that the Italian nurse’s “culture is naturally affectionate and tactile which could have been a reason why he felt his behaviour was not inappropriate”.
This month, employment judge John Pritchard ruled that Messeri was unfairly dismissed by the hospital.
Pritchard said that “there was a lack of care, attention to detail and focus [in the investigation]”, and that on some of the dates Messeri was accused of acting inappropriately, he was not even at work.
Messeri, whose English is limited, also won a claim of indirect race discrimination as he was not able to have an Italian translator at his disciplinary hearing.
The nurse will be awarded compensation and the amount will be decided at a later date.