A health worker who faced the sack after giving an NHS colleague a booklet about the potential dangers of abortion has been allowed to return to work.
Margaret Forrester, 39, claimed to have been ‘bullied’ and ‘treated like a criminal’ for expressing her religious views, but said yesterday that she has now been offered a better job at the same NHS trust.
Miss Forrester, claims she was suspended in November last year after she handed the £4 pro-life booklet called Forsaken – published by a charity – to her colleague. It detailed the physical and psychological trauma experienced by five women from Taunton, Somerset, who terminated their pregnancies.
She said she offered it to a family planning worker during a private conversation because she felt the NHS did not give enough information about the potential risks of abortion.
The mental health worker, who has been employed by the NHS for six years, said there was no sign her colleague, with whom she had discussed abortion, was offended by the booklet or by their conversation.
'Treated like a criminal': Margaret Forrester says she has now been offered a better job by the NHS
But a few days later her manager told her she was being sent home on ‘special leave with full pay’. She was ordered not to see any patients and to stay away from all NHS sites while the trust investigated.
Later, she was told she had not been suspended and could return to work, but claimed she was not allowed to do her normal job. Instead she was put on other duties, which she found ‘bullying and offensive’, adding: ‘I felt physically sickened by their bullying.’
She was eventually signed off on sick leave and has not been back to the health centre since.
Miss Forrester, who worked at the Central and North West London Mental Health Trust, in Camden, attended an internal disciplinary hearing last month where she was accused of ‘distributing materials some people may find offensive’.
Last night a spokesman for the trust said Miss Forrester had been warned not to distribute the ‘offensive’ material or anything similar again, but confirmed she had been offered a new role within the trust.
Offensive? Margaret Forrester said she offered the booklet - Forsaken - to a family planning worker during a private conversation because she felt the NHS did not give enough information about the potential risks of abortion
Miss Forrester said: ‘My employers have not given me any warnings of any kind. They have offered me a new, better role with a wider scope. If at any point they do send me a warning, I will challenge it in court.
‘It was incredible that I was suspended in the first place, just because I expressed a personal opinion. I should be able to express my opinion privately without fear and act freely in good conscience. Today is a victory for freedom of speech. I want to thank all of those who have prayed for me and supported me.’
Andrea Minichiello Williams, a barrister who runs the Christian Legal Centre which supported Miss Forrester, said: ‘The level of intolerance in the public sphere, demonstrated increasingly in public sector employment, is deeply worrying. ‘We hope that today’s decision by the NHS will help to reverse the tide of intolerance. This is a victory for freedom of conscience and freedom of speech.’