A doctor who was too eager to drive on busy roads or motorways has won a discrimination case after the NHS tried to force her to make a 40-minute drive.
Dr Madhvi Verma disliked driving on “unknown roads” because she suffered from anxiety after being involved in a “near miss” as a passenger, and also suffered from lower back pain and sciatica, an employment court heard.
Health experts also told Dr. Verma, a sexual health specialist, that she should not work night shifts because of her pain.
But after returning to work after a spell of illness, the experienced doctor was offered a work plan that would have involved traveling by car and working at night, the hearing was told.
The court ruled that the trust failed to make reasonable adjustments to her conditions, putting her in line for compensation.
Dr Verma has been working for Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust since 2006.
Difficulty driving distances
Since 2011, the trust’s Blackpool genitourinary clinic has been based at the Whitegate Drive Health Center, just a ten-minute walk from Dr Verma’s home, the panel was told.
In 2017, the doctor was absent due to work stress.
She was scheduled to return around 2019, and a series of occupational health assessments were carried out as part of her “return to work strategy,” the court heard.
Health reports concluded that Dr. Verma had difficulty driving distances and would be unable to work nights due to back pain, for which she was taking painkillers, the panel heard.
She also suffered from anxiety after a “near miss” when her husband was driving and she was a passenger, the court was told.
It was suggested that additional driving lessons would be needed to restore his confidence.
Another report stated that “the previous traffic accident has made driving on busy roads difficult”.
Dr Verma wanted a full-time position based solely at the Whitegate Drive Health Center but was told by the trust that would not be possible, the court heard.
Instead, the doctor was offered a work plan that required her to be based in Preston, the panel heard, a 40-minute drive from her home.
It also required the doctor to work out of an evening clinic in Burnley, a 55-minute drive away.
The hearing was told that such trips exacerbated her back pain and that “sitting in a car for long periods of time is problematic for her.” [Dr Verma]”.
He began a new period of sick leave in August 2021 and has not returned to work since, the panel heard.
The tribunal, held in Manchester, concluded that the NHS trust “failed in its duty to make reasonable accommodation” to its conditions.
A hearing to decide what compensation the doctor should receive will be held at a later date.