Whistleblower wins £20,000 in damages from England’s only NHS child gender clinic after being shunned when she raised concerns about puberty blockers
- Sonia Appleby won £20,000 damages from England’s only NHS gender clinic
- The social worker was shunned for raising concerns about puberty blockers
- Tribunal found her reputation had been ‘damaged’ by treatment from bosses
- She was labelled as ‘hostile’ by bosses at Gender Identity Development Service
Sonia Appleby (pictured) has won £20,000 damages after being shunned when she raised concerns about puberty blockers
A whistleblower at England’s only NHS gender clinic for children has won £20,000 damages after being shunned when she raised concerns about puberty blockers.
Social worker Sonia Appleby’s professional reputation was ‘damaged’ by treatment she received from bosses at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), an employment tribunal found.
Employment judge Sarah Goodman said Ms Appleby had been labelled ‘hostile’ by bosses after warning that staff had serious concerns about the prescription of puberty blockers.
Dr Polly Carmichael, director of GIDS, was said to have told her team that Ms Appleby had ‘an agenda’, and discouraged staff from telling her about any safeguarding concerns.
Judge Goodman said such comments made it ‘difficult’ for Ms Appleby to carry out her duties as the trust’s child safeguarding lead.
The judge also criticised managers for recording a complaint on her employment file without any formal investigation after Ms Appleby warned that GIDS could be in a ‘Jimmy Savile-style situation’.
Judge Goodman said: ‘The claimant was reaching the end of her hitherto blameless professional career in a senior position.
‘Her explanation that referring to Jimmy Savile was shorthand for being careful that harm was not overlooked and was something she routinely stated in training was rejected without investigation.’
Ms Appleby, 62, told a tribunal hearing in June that she first noticed problems in 2016 – including ‘deficiencies’ in reporting safeguarding issues in patient notes due to pressure from soaring annual referrals, which rose from fewer than 100 in 2009 to more than 2,000.
Ms Appleby’s reputation was ‘damaged’ by treatment she received from bosses at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust’s Gender Identity Development Service, a tribunal found
She also told how from 2017 she began receiving a ‘stream’ of complaints from staff, ranging from concerns about pressure from the transgender lobby to worries about giving children puberty blockers.
Staff were also concerned about a GP, Helen Webberley, who, despite being suspended by the General Medical Council, was prescribing puberty blockers to children who had not been assessed by GIDS.
Ms Appleby, who is still employed by the trust, said she had told GIDS’ then medical director, Dr Rob Senior, that staff felt ‘coerced’ into not reporting safeguarding issues for fear of being labelled ‘transphobic’ and that colleagues had expressed concern that some young children were ‘actively encouraged’ to be transgender without full scrutiny.
Elliot Hammer, Ms Appleby’s solicitor at law firm Branch Austin, said: ‘We are very happy Sonia was successful at tribunal and thankful to those who supported her.’
The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust said it was ‘disappointed by the tribunal’s decision’ but that it would not comment further.
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