Julian Makey/REX

Christian health worker looked "crazy"

Tue 21 Apr 2015
By Hannah Tooley

An NHS Christian health worker says she was made to look "a bit crazy" when the trust disciplined her for allegedly trying to convert a colleague.

37-year-old senior occupational therapist Victoria Wasteney told the BBC that a ruling she had bullied her Muslim colleague was "far from the truth".

She lost an employment tribunal earlier this month where she argued the disciplinary action was due to religious discrimination.

East London Foundation NHS Trust denies that it has discriminated against her.

It has been reported that Miss Wasteney will be appealing against this judgement with support from campaigning group Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre.

She had been working at the trust for seven years when she was suspended in June 2013, and investigated for gross misconduct over allegations of harassments and bullying.

Her Muslim colleague had written an eight-page letter of complaint which contained allegations that Miss Wasteney had been attempting to convert her to the Christian faith. It was said that she had asked her to pray and had given her a book about a Muslim woman converting to Christianity.

The colleague also alleged that Victoria Wasteney had put her hand on her knee in prayer for 10 minutes, asking God to come to her, and the colleague had reported that she felt as if she was being groomed.

Speaking to the BBC Miss Wasteney said she was surprised by the allegations, because she thought her and her colleague had become friends over 18 months they worked together.

She said: "I obviously felt as though I'd been painted as a bit crazy and someone who bullies someone and someone who harasses someone and who goes out of their way to manipulate and groom someone, which is far from my truth."

She added that there were "aspects of truths", as she admits she did put her hand on the woman's knee and offered a "very quick prayer" after her colleague had approached her for some personal support.

"It was sad to hear later it was described as 10 minutes long. It made it sound like it was an exorcism thing that was going on and it was very hurtful. It wasn't, in my heart it wasn't the intention. I genuinely cared about her and I still do and I really hope that she is well," she said.

Miss Wasteney's suspension lasted nine months before a hearing found her behaviour counted as bullying and harassment.

As a result she was given a final written warning, training about boundaries and monthly supervision.

Victoria Wasteney lost the case when she took the trust to a tribunal - the judgement found the hospital had not acted with prejudice or discriminated against her on religious grounds.

Miss Wasteney is now back at work in a different hospital. She said she had taken the trust to the tribunal as she felt she had been treated unjustly. She added she was not a bully "and that was grievous to me".

"I felt... there was some injustice to what had happened and I felt that this was an avenue where I could stand and say, I would like it to be heard that this doesn't seem to be as it ought to be in a country where we are supposed to be able to be free with each other".

Dr Robert Dolan, Chief Executive of the trust said in a statement after the tribunal decision: "We have a strong reputation of positively supporting staff and patients from a diverse range of backgrounds. We are an inclusive trust that values and respects diversity.

"We would like to emphasise that as a trust our concerns have always been about the behaviour and actions of a senior manager employed by the trust and not about the faith or religion of any individual."

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