A mental health trust is facing strikes and legal action after sacking a senior nurse who spoke out in her role as a union representative.

Psychiatric nurse Karen Reissmann, Unison branch chair at Manchester Mental Health and Social Care trust, was dismissed on Monday for bringing the trust into disrepute.

Ms Reissmann, who has worked for the organisation for 25 years, is appealing against the decision and 160 staff are set to strike indefinitely from today in a show of support.

She told HSJ: 'I'm shocked because I can't believe it's 2007, there's a Labour government and this is the NHS, yet they have tried to stop a trade union from speaking out. It's to the loss of the service if people feel terrified to say "I don't think this is good for patients".'

Her sacking follows an article she wrote for a regional magazine aimed at social enterprises. In it she voiced concerns about a local, unnamed assertive outreach service run by the voluntary sector. She claimed the service was having difficulty attracting experienced staff because it did not offer the same pay and pension package as the NHS.

Ms Reissmann was suspended in June for 16 weeks, sparking strikes two months later by 700 staff at four sites across Manchester. After a six-day disciplinary hearing she was sacked on four charges of gross misconduct.

The charges were: criticising a partner organisation, telling people why she was suspended, protesting her innocence before a disciplinary hearing had taken place and allowing the media to publish articles about the case.

Trust chief executive Sheila Foley said: 'I do believe this is the right decision and is being taken in the best interest of the trust and the patients we care for.'