A NURSE who was sacked after blowing the whistle on staff at a care home where an elderly patient is believed to have choked to death has been awarded more than £23,000 at an employment tribunal.

Karen Hainey, a former worker at Glennie House in Ayrshire, has told how her life was "turned upside down" after she made a protected disclosure about the standard of care at the home - leading to the dismissal of three members of staff and the resignation of two managers.

Following her complaint, the managing director of Countrywide Care Homes told her colleagues she was the whistleblower and a number of complaints were then made against Ms Hainey, who claims she became the subject of a "witch hunt".

The 52-year-old, of Ayr, was dismissed without a full investigation of the facts as bosses forced her out for causing trouble for the company.

The tribunal ruled the firm ignored the possibility that the claims had been made up to get back at her because "they had 'got her' and did not want anything to stand in the way of a decision to dismiss".

Ms Hainey who continues to work as a nurse, said: "I did what I thought was right and reported this to the council. I had a duty of care and in the end what I reported was upheld.

"But through that duty of care, doing what any nurse should do, my life was turned upside down.

"It's taken two years to get this decisions, two years to prove it was a set-up from the beginning.

"My bosses were convinced I was guilty from the start, from the moment the allegations were made to the final appeal, it didn't matter what I said, they weren't going to listen. They wanted me out and that was it."

The tribunal heard that Ms Hainey's colleagues complained about her to management just days after they discovered she was a whistleblower.

They accused her of swearing at staff and shouting at a resident, however employment judge Lucy Wiseman found the company "did not have reasonable grounds" to believe the accusations were true.

Ms Hainey, who was represented by law firm the McKinstry Group, added: "I couldn't believe it when the managing director told my manager it was me who had done it, things like that are supposed to remain anonymous. They were supposed to protect me under the whistleblowing policy and they didn't.

"After that other staff members complained about me, it was a witch hunt from start to end.

"I made a disclosure and within weeks I was suspended and eventually sacked.

"I took my case to a tribunal because I wanted to clear my name and finally the truth has come out."

Ms Hainey was reported to the Nursing and Midwifery Council by the company, but officials ruled that no action should be taken against her.

Judge Wiseman said she found Ms Hainey to be "entirely credible" throughout the tribunal, while Countrywide's HR director Jenny Delic and managing director Christopher Ball were "not entirely credible or reliable".

She added: "We concluded Countrywide Care Homes consciously took the decision to dismiss the claimant because she had made a protected disclosure, which had caused trouble for the respondent."

An investigation was carried out at the home by the Care Commission shortly after Ms Hainey's disclosure.

As a result, a total of eight workers were sacked after a report revealed that patients were left badly malnourished.

Inspectors gave the home, which cares for cancer and dementia sufferers, the lowest grades possible for staffing, care quality and leadership.

However, the workers were cleared of blame over the death of a patient who is understood to have choked to death.

A spokeswoman for Countrywide Care Homes said the home has since received positive reports after implementing a number of changes.

She added: "We are very disappointed with the outcome of the employment tribunal however we cannot comment on the particular case as we are currently appealing the judgement decision which we do not agree with.

"We have policies and procedures in place to encourage whistleblowing. The situation at the time was not just about this individual but a much bigger issue. Our priority is the safety and welfare of the vulnerable people that we are trusted to look after."