A WIDOW who claims she was sacked from Ealing Hospital as a result of her whistle blowing is to receive a full salary until the case is heard in full next year, a tribunal chairman has ordered.
Sharmila Chowdhury, a radiology manager who clocked up more than 25 years' service in the health sector, claims she was dismissed after informing hospital officials that some radiology consultants were defrauding the NHS of thousands of pounds by claiming payments for NHS sessions when they were actually working with private patients.
The 51-year-old, who was employed as a service manager in the imaging department at the hospital, told Watford Employment Tribunal last week that she was the budget holder for the radiology department and was responsible for signing off all work and attendance of staff.
But shortly after making her revelations in October 2009, she was suspended on an allegation of fraud in relation to reports she was producing on behalf of the trust - she was paid to produce reports on X-rays in the department - and was dismissed in June for gross misconduct for allegedly doing the work inside her normal contractual hours.
Ms Chowdhury believes she was sacked because she blew the whistle on senior radiologists and the tribunal chairman ordered her earnings be protected until the full tribunal hearing in February 2011.
The widow, who has one son, and who qualified as a radiographer in 1983, said: "I cannot believe what has happened to me. I had no idea why I was suspended as I was just doing my job.
"I thought the trust would want to know consultants were doing private work on NHS time. The public has a right to know what is happening with public money.
"I am delighted that I have been awarded interim relief as I have a son to support and it is a clear sign that the tribunal chairman thinks my whistle-blowing case is strong."
Julie Morris, a partner at Russell Jones and Walker who represented Ms Chowdhury, said it was unusual for a tribunal to grant protection of earnings and said: "This can be a very powerful tool for claimants who are able to convince the tribunal that they have a 'pretty good chance' of succeeding.
"If they do, then their earnings are protected. We were all very pleased with the result in Sharmila's case, especially since we understand that interim relief has only ever been granted in a handful of cases."
An Ealing Hospital spokeswoman said: "The trust is unable to comment on confidential matters relating to individual employees."