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 Personal Accounts of Suspension 

Story 1   |   Story 2  |   Story 3  |  Story 4  |  Story 5  | Story 6 | Story 7 | Story 8 | Story 9 | Story 10

Story 1

It was Thursday evening, 8pm and the link worker and I finally left the clients’ house because I now felt satisfied the baby would come to no harm, having consulted with various agencies. (We usually finish work at 5pm. The link worker was excellent.) Next morning I phoned one of our child protection advisers to tell her what had been happening. She gave her approval and congratulated me on my actions.

Later that afternoon, the specialist adviser for health visitors phoned and asked to speak to me on my own. The nursing auxiliary left the room and then the adviser told me there were queries about my involvement with a particular family and that it was not appropriate for me to remain at work. I would hear the nature of the allegations being made as soon as possible. I was so shocked I have a vague memory of thanking her….

 The auxiliary came back into the room. When I told her what had happened she went white and sat down shocked and in disbelief. She was very concerned for my safety driving home and when I declined to have her drive me, followed me part way home to make sure I was alright.

The worst way of letting someone know they have been suspended must be by letter. The next to worst way must be on a Friday afternoon by phone! All weekend to stew over it. Shock, anger, shame…. The emotions are endless.

I eventually received an apology from the organisation for this but never from the person herself. We had previously been on good terms and as a manager, this person had been excellent at giving personal support to her staff. However I had been involved in several new initiatives which had needed her action and which added to her impossible workload. She had become ‘distant’ in her relationship for the last couple of years. I believe her personal feelings clouded her professional judgement.

I received a letter detailing 4 allegations against me.

Investigatory meeting 5 days later by the person making the allegations! My complaint about her lack of impartiality was ignored! Human resources manager firmly on her side to support her. A number of assertions made at the meeting by her were later found to be untrue.

Outcome of meeting – the  director of primary care decided one allegation should stand and I should face a disciplinary hearing.

The trust produced a piece of evidence from a police inspector, the evening prior to the hearing preventing time for a considered response. (I already had a police witness statement refuting this beyond doubt but the copy of the fax ‘threw’ my union rep. I had to raise it myself in my defence.) Moreover a solicitor who saw the fax at a subsequent date, immediately spotted that the copy of the fax of entries to a police log were out of date order to support the investigation manager’s evidence. The investigation manager had already written a note on a hospital document claiming that an event had taken place that had not and for which she had no evidence. In other words, there were dodgy goings on! Why? I will never know.

The chair of the disciplinary hearing and the independent witness did not read my lengthy defence prior to the hearing due to a failure of their human resources department to provide them with the document.

At the hearing, the investigation manager argued for an hour that I should face all four allegations. She finally accepted that I should face two of them. The union regional officer conceded this for fear we should never proceed. Again the investigation manager presented inaccuracies in her case.

Meanings of words are critical. ‘She cannot be woken’ can mean ‘she was unconscious/drunk’ or ‘she has been up every night this week and now it is my turn. Leave her alone.’ What different conclusions may then be drawn. And how tired we all were and how adversarial it all was that no-one spotted the glaring evidence against the first interpretation. The accused stands guilty and has to prove their innocence in the present situation.

I was asked about the size of my caseload. I had regularly covered a colleague’s caseload for lengthy periods of absence (six months at one time) and helped out with others. It was already a heavy caseload but these were normal for that organisation and area. I said nothing!

The union rep was making out a strong case. Then I was asked if this situation was a course for concern. Of course. There was a big sigh from the rep and joy from the investigation manager. I had taken special care for several years to see that all was OK. I would have been negligent not to have done so. I still find myself thinking about all this some years later!

The hearing lasted six hours. The chair phoned later to say no further disciplinary action was to be taken but I was to undertake some further training. What an insult. I felt like giving up.

The letter gave no verdict on the allegations brought against me. If I had acted inappropriately, what would have been the appropriate action? It also included an error of fact, a measure of the inadequacies (understatement) of the hearing.

My husband and children were very, very angry about the whole thing and the distress they had witnessed. They could not believe the lack of loyalty from my employers when they knew how hard I had worked for the good of clients. One of them wrote to the chairman of the organisation to complain. In his reply the chairman stated that I had ‘been cleared of professional shortcomings’.  Hurray! Their letter did not spell that out to me.

As there had been no disciplinary action taken, I was unable to appeal. Injustice is one of the hardest things to live with. My colleagues were incensed by what had happened (I had been able to keep in touch through my union branch) and did not doubt my ability to practice. Their belief in me was precious. My GP who was very supportive throughout, and who had known other patients in similar situations, pointed out that the opinion of my colleagues, who worked with me and who knew my work, was the opinion that really mattered. I had received a constant flow of cards and flowers of support. It was amazing.

To my surprise, I was unable to physically go into the management block after my return to work. When my line manager (who had been bypassed in the suspension and who had nothing to do with the process) left me a phone message to get in touch with her, I started to shake and my colleagues had to calm me before I dared to call back. I asked her never to leave a message without also saying what she wanted to speak with me about. She sounded surprised but agreed to do it. (I had never been off sick in 8 years until these events took place. I had never been of a nervous disposition either.)

I had already been planning to work nearer home and was able to leave three weeks after my return to work. I was fortunate to be given a good reference and the new organisation were willing to trust their own judgement and give me a chance.

My colleagues gave me a fantastic send off but of course, no managers were invited! What a sad way to end my work with them.

 

Story 2

Setting the scene!

Background - Dynamic health visiting team – change of most of our practice in three years.

Important team member left. New member, team ethos changed radically. Comments about my communication with colleagues and clients.

To try and resolve these:-

Saw counsellor in occupational health; helpful insights
Requested clinical supervision; also helpful
Anonymous (as much as it can be) exit questionnaire with clients (and agreement with audit manager); very positive and some very interesting comments that informed some practice changes for me.

Fundamental disagreement with the team; meetings failed to resolve situation; team asked me to leave the office.

Staff shortage at a different health centre; was asked to join.

Change of team

New dynamic of the new team, restorative and healing; valiant part time colleague had struggled on with needy full time caseload. Within a couple of months, up to date; starting to develop new initiatives and work in depth with some families.

Complex case; realised situation had changed radically; no allocated social worker; sent fax proposing different outcome to case conference (reverting back to original proposal by social worker). Sent same fax to child protection team.

Three days later called to manager’s office urgently. Not invited to bring colleague but did.

Suspension

Suspended pending investigation. Complete shock. However, this happened to me four years previously in another organisation so I knew the process.  I had been through the trauma and devastation then, though this was also extremely distressing of course.  (The allegations against me were not upheld and the trust chairman stated that I had ‘been cleared of professional shortcomings’).  I asked to continue with clinic work and groups but request was denied.

At the investigation interview, explained why I sent the fax. Explanation ignored.

Record keeping examined by two managers. Report written by clinical supervisor without prior agreement with me, in spite of written, signed contract that all discussions were confidential and reports would only be written with both our agreement.

Investigation report full of fresh allegations, unrelated to the allegation of potentially putting a child at risk. Written refutation ignored. Accept recommendations of retraining in child protection procedures and full assessment of ability to function as a health visitor or face disciplinary action.

As the same people would be conducting the disciplinary hearing, opted for six month assessment.

Person who wrote ambiguous and unhelpful clinical supervision report, appointed to supervise. Unable to trust this person. Said this at a meeting with person present. Told there was no alternative except disciplinary action (again). Regional union rep and local rep managed to have the supervisor changed. Occupational health doctor helpful.

Suspension continued while all this was being arranged. Finally lifted after eight and a half months.

The assessment of my practice

Very painful returning to work.  It was humiliating, lonely and very stressful.  My confidence had been undermined and I had no trust in management.  However, I was working in a different area with a different manager over seeing the assessment, who tried to be neutral in it all. 

The assessor, a community practice teacher, was very supportive, (as were the rest of the team), and fair.  I was also asked to keep a portfolio of the assessment..  Six months later the assessor wrote a positive report detailing the sections of the assessment, finding no problems and recommending a return to practice. 

The thought of the waste of time and public money was irksome.  And I kept protesting my innocence, that I could not have put a child at risk because processes would not allow it.  I had also set up a web site to give support and information to fellow sufferers and to campaign against these horrendous miscarriages of justice.  The people making contact were describing very similar events and processes.

At the beginning of the assessment process I was given a different local union rep who was incensed by what had happened and gave me very good advice during the assessment process, but who could not accompany me to meetings as she worked for a different trust and her employers would not sanction it.  Initially I went to assessment meetings unaccompanied.  One of my daughters came to the last one and could not believe what was going on – no policies or procedures being followed. She was allowed to speak and asked for timescales for a decision.

Child protection assessment

For the other part of the assessment, I insisted the designated nurse for child protection undertake the assessment of my child protection work, as I considered she was the only practitioner who had the authority to do this and because serious allegations had been made against my ability to do the work safely. I also felt badly let down by the adviser who had supervised my practice during the four years I had worked for the trust and who had never indicated any concerns.

I asked the designated nurse why I had been suspended without asking me first for my side of the story, but she made no reply.

I went through the case that had caused my suspension and she listened but had no comment or suggestions about what I might have done wrongly.  I showed her my systems failure analysis but again, no comment.  (The director of nursing had sent her thanks for it but they already did that.  Kind regards!)

I thought it was the social services manager who had initiated the whole process (my apologies to him!) and when I asked her about it she replied that the report was back in the office and she could not comment without reading it.

I attended all the child protection training required, We covered all the ground that she considered necessary to establish my safety to practise and I took on some child protection cases.  She then wrote a detailed and positive report, finally recommending that I was safe to return to unsupervised practice.  The whole process had taken just over six months. 

So now what ? 

The outcome

Silence.  Nothing new about that!  By email, I asked what was happening.  I was told the investigating manager and my former manager were meeting to discuss the outcome of the assessment. I was asked to give the investigating manager sight of my portfolio, which I did. It was returned to me without comment.

Silence again. Another email and I was told those two managers were meeting with the director of nursing and the Deputy Director of Human Resources to discuss a verdict.

Silence again.

I was informed of a meeting with the Director of Nursing.  This was brought forward a week and was now to be held with the Director of Hospital and Community Services. 

I received a letter by recorded delivery, informing me that the Clinical Governance Professional Review Group had considered my case and decided I displayed a lack of judgement evidenced in my seeming inability or refusal to accept that I acted outside process and created unnecessary risk.  Therefore the purpose of the meeting was to outline a decision taken by the full trust board and my future with the Trust.

The outcome of the meeting was my instant dismissal.  It was a shocking experience.

 The fulltime union officer

 My impression was that the union regional officer had at first believed I was ‘guilty’ in some way and had ignored the unsubstantiated allegations.  He had intervened to have the assessor changed and he had told the local rep to contact the trust when the suspension dragged on interminably.  Now he got involved at my dismissal meeting and was a witness to the breaching of employment law.  My case was taken by the union’s solicitors and an appeal was lodged with the Employment Tribunal.  Endless waste of public money………………

I signed on with the local job centre.  I tried to get work as a health visitor but without success.  An agency almost employed me until their human resources (HR) director spoke to the previous HR director. 

Referral to the Nursing and Midwifery Council

 

Then six months after my dismissal I received a bundle of papers from the regulatory body, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) informing me that my previous employers had alleged unfitness to practise and that my case was to go before the investigatory committee in a month’s time. I was invited to send a response.

The trust had requested that I not be given sight of the four statements of allegations which, until now, had been kept confidential to protect the authors.  Thankfully, the NMC did not uphold their request. 

I now understood reasons for the recommendations.  I also saw that the social services manager had stated, eight days after my suspension, that it was not possible for what I had done (send a fax) to trigger off a chain of events that would put a child at risk.  And a child protection adviser who didn’t know my work, had set the alarm bells ringing (I still don’t understand how she managed it!) and that the designated nurse for child protection had been very economical with the truth.  How very sad.

I wrote a 13 page response with another 25 pages of appendices supporting my evidence and the investigatory panel decided that there was no case to answer.  The reasons they gave were that there was no evidence of impairment of fitness to practise. ‘The assessment documentation indicated that the supervision was successful and that the respondent is competent and has insight’.

I applied to the agency once more, the previous HR manager gave a ‘non-descript’ reference and at last I returned to practise through an agency eight months after my dismissal.  I have very little trust in NHS managers and never want to work in the NHS again.

 

The Employment Tribunal

 

The Employment Tribunal (ET) was due to be heard the same month, but the solicitors for the trust, said they were bringing up to six witnesses to give evidence against me and would need more time. Two days were agreed and a date everyone could manage was fixed, 14 months after my dismissal.

Shortly after, the solicitors put in a settlement offer of £10,000.   Some months later they increased this to £15,000.  I wanted an apology and the freedom to tell my story for the campaign, to stop this sort of disaster re-occurring.  By now I had over a hundred NHS employees, mostly nurses, who had made contact through the web site, with similar stories.

On the afternoon prior to the Tribunal hearing, a final settlement agreement was reached as the sum offered was more than the ET would award if I had a barrister cleverer than the trust’s, (I had learnt from other people’s cases that it is not about justice and fairness).  I had been given an apology and it had been accepted that I would use my case in the campaign but not name the people responsible.

Cost of my case?

My case must have cost a lot, well above the £21,400 average for non-NHS staff the National Audit Office figure reached in their 2003 report.  Not working properly from my suspension until my dismissal 17 months later, the cost of the assessments, training, meetings, a substantial settlement that I am not allowed to disclose although the Department of Health has said this must not happen and finally solicitors fees.  £200.000?

The end…………

The end will arrive for me when the Department of Health gives all NHS staff the same rights as the doctors and dentists.  (They are currently in breach of the 2002 Employment Law and have acknowledged it.)

 I am very grateful to a fellow campaigner who has written a clear explanation of the illegalities of the Department’s actions.  These are in the campaign section of the website www.suspension-nhs.org

The icing on the cake will be when the health sector unions set up specialist teams to give advice in such cases as at present , they are failing many of the members by their lack of understanding of processes and their absence of action.

Story 3

Some of the stories people have, relate to false allegations with investigations but no suspension. This one is typical of some of them.

It was a very busy clinic. after Christmas and in the school holidays. There were just myself and the very able auxiliary nurse present. Parents brought children by arrangement, to have their babies’ immunisation programmes completed. Others heard what was happening and requested the same. Checked their parent held records to confirm what they were saying and administered the immunisations. Unscheduled immunisations’ forms completed with their signatures. Auxiliary nurse assisted with the paperwork.

Next morning, one parent phoned, very upset. Baby unwell - did I give a particular vaccine because child should not have it. There had been nothing to say this in the parent held records. Tried to contact GP. Not available. Bleeped senior paediatric houseman at local hospital. He arranged for the baby to be admitted immediately. Baby discharged several hours later. Illness not vaccine related.

Family made formal complaint.

Investigation interview with manager and representative from human resources. Took experienced colleague. We expected a clinical discussion and some recognition of my prompt actions that had protected the organisation from any legal action.

We came out of the meeting an hour later totally shocked at what had transpired.

The family had written in large letters and since the clinic, that the vaccine was not to be given Manager agreed it had been there at the time of the clinic and that I had missed it or ignored it.

Upheld another of their accusations, their word against mine. That I had given the vaccine was undisputed. A fourth allegation that was obviously impossible was thrown out.

Outcome - I was to receive counselling. During the counselling session I became very upset at what had happened. Felt betrayed by the manager. During the whole period of the investigation, work output dropped to a very low level. Very hard to concentrate. Very distressing.

Have since found out that this sort of event is not uncommon with outcomes that are far more damaging eg a two year written warning on file.

No right of appeal.

Story 4

STORY no: 4 told by a family member.

After Sarah (not her real name), who worked as a community psychiatric nurse, was involved in a car accident whilst travelling between two of the trust's clinics, she received a telephone call while she was still recovering from her injuries - she had to be cut out of her car after a tractor entered the main road from a laneway and ran over her car - from her Line Manager pleading with her to return to work and he could give her a job for 3 days a week so she could get used to being back at work again. 

Against family advice she did so. The nurse she was taking over from was also her Shop Steward and worked a 5 day week at the same job.  She inherited from him about 50 files with no notes in them.  She was also getting about 10 to 12 new referrals a week on top of a caseload of 150 patients she was still to see.  She approached her Line Manager for help and he told her to Prioritise!

She asked him how she could do so as she didn't know any of the patients, hadn't seen them and there were no notes in their files.  She was told to do whatever she could but as the nurse before her (working 5 days) never needed any help, her Line Manager couldn't see why Sarah (working 3 days) would need assistance to catch up. With his mind-set she had absolutely no chance! 

Eventually a doctor wrote in to complain that a referral of his hadn't been seen in 3 weeks.  Then the manure hit the fan and it was all her fault with her Line Manager saying he had no idea she was behind in seeing new referrals.

Then she was posted to another area with a new nurse being brought in to do her previous post at 5 days a week, which they refused her permission to do.  Her new post meant her driving over 150 miles a day with the damaged spine she received in the accident.  She made management very well aware of her bad back and that driving distances aggravated it but she was forced to do so. 

Eventually she was forced to take time off as her back was now giving her so much pain she was coming home at night and lying on the floor for up to 2 hours to try to get some ease from the pain.

I then suggested she sue the Trust for the pain & suffering she was going through and I made an appointment to see my solicitor.  He suggested she should contact her Trade Union as that's what they are there for.  She did so and they in turn referred her to their Solicitors.  At the end of the day it was found that a particular Trust Manager was negligent in forcing her to drive long distances with the foreknowledge it could cause her already damaged spine further damage and Sarah was awarded £3,500 for her pain & suffering. A princely sum!

After the settlement someone else now decided to change her 'patch' once more.  This time her daily driving was increased to 250+ miles daily.  She approached top level management about this and then had a meeting with one of them accompanied by their Human Resources Manager.  The HRM said to her, "Sarah, you are not registered as a disabled person, just go and do the job you are sent to do" which she did.  This lasted a few months again followed by a long period of absence as a result of back pain.  All as predicted. 

Then they sent her to see the Trust's own doctor who went ballistic when she told him where she had been sent to work.  It turned out he had personally intervened and had arranged for her to work at a neighbouring clinic where driving was reduced to a minimum.

It was this job she returned to work to do.  After about six weeks the team she worked with were having their weekly working lunch in a pub with the new psychiatrist, who said he had something important to do at the Trust's HQ.  Off he went. Without saying anything to Sarah, the important thing he had to do was to make an official complaint about her.  He alleged a patient she was seeing had saved up her tablets and had taken an overdose without Sarah being aware of it. The patient had boasted to the doctor how she had stored the tablets away where Sarah couldn't find them.

As a result of this charge the Trust now added a charge of her not keeping proper notes on her patients when she was working 3 days a week.

She was instructed to work on the wards until a Disciplinary Hearing was arranged.  She went off sick with the stress instead with our doctor immediately giving her a Sick note for 6 months.

A very difficult neighbour stood in the middle of her garden one day shortly afterwards and swallowed an overdose in full view of the neighbours. In hospital she told the Psychiatrist that Sarah was the reason for all her illnesses.  The fact that her life was in a mess had nothing to do with her very public attempted suicide. Next thing, Sarah was summoned to the Trust HQ where she was again informed that the same doctor had made a further official complaint about her, this time about the neighbour.

A couple of weeks later she received a further letter asking her to report to HQ.  She believed this was to give her a date for a hearing. It wasn't. Again she was informed the same doctor had made a further complaint that she had discussed a patient with the patient's partner just before she went off ill.  This was supposed to have taken place in the patient's own home a month previously. Sarah's own diaries proved she had not visited that patient's house for over 20 months and she was one of the patients that Sarah always insisted on seeing at the Clinic.

They eventually found she had no case to answer on 2 of the doctor's complaints and the other case regarding the neighbour  remains outstanding after years. 

When the Disciplinary Hearing did take place, it was Chaired by the man who was found at fault when she sued the Trust.  The other member was the Human Resources Manager who broke European and the Employment Legislation when she refused to recognise that Sarah should have been treated by them as a disabled person. 

They got their revenge by demoting her from the top of a G Grade to a D Grade, to work on the wards under strict supervision when they found her guilty of not keeping proper records.  These were the ones inherited from her Shop Steward.  They refused to listen when she told them about how she had inherited the files in the first place.

The Shop Steward was well aware of all that was happening but he failed to step forward and admit he was at fault. He also withdrew support just prior to this meeting as did the regional officer for the union Amicus.

Because of the situation Sarah felt she could not involve any other members of staff to accompany her to the Disciplinary Hearing or to her Appeal, just in case whoever did support her would be their next target. Therefore she faced both kangaroo courts alone.

As for her colleagues, except for a couple, they didn't even phone her.  It seems they were afraid of it rubbing off onto them as well. Her Line Manager has now taken early retirement, possibly in an attempt to try to avoid having to answer for his actions. 

Sarah's solicitor received a copy of her Employment Record and her Line Manager had clearly recently written some notes which were backdated.  Some actually had more than one date on them and fortunately she had kept a record of every meeting she had with him.

 Although he never had reason to give her any warnings regarding her work, to look as if he had, he had inserted one note that he had given her a verbal warning at a particular time on a particular date. At that exact date and time we were attending a family celebration 25 miles away from where he said he had this imaginary meeting with her!  Nor is there any record of this so called Verbal Warning being put on paper.  On another date when he said he had a meeting with her, we were out of the country.

I still hope that one day the Trust managers will apologise to Sarah for the way they have treated her.

And of course, she has been so damaged by all this, she has left the NHS and started a whole new career.

 

Story no: 5        A familiar tale, anonymised to protect the writer.

‘My current situation highlights the injustices faced by many hardworking and loyal nurses on a daily basis in today's NHS. 

I am currently entering my 6th month of what is deemed a neutral suspension, after a team member (with whom I had been working very well prior to this), made an allegation of bullying and harassment against me.  

What I feel is so unjust is the way my PCT is allowed to conduct the investigation which is appalling, and the way I was suspended, and left unsupported, and now informed I will be off of work, suspended for at least another month. 

I still to this date, despite frequent requests have never been informed what the original allegations against me were.

PCT Staff were told that they were not, under any circumstances, allowed to contact me, but they were not informed that this was limited to whilst at work. This has had a major impact upon me, as most of my friends are also work colleagues. The PCT therefore compounded my feelings of isolation by actively instructing people employed by the PCT not to contact me or speak to me at all.

I was also instructed both at my suspension meeting and in writing to “refrain from any contact with PCT staff unless with the explicit approval of the investigating officers’. It is my considered opinion that the behaviour adopted by the PCT has in itself been bullying and in breach of my basic human rights. It has significantly reduced my support networks and added to the immense stress I have been under.  

Not knowing what the allegations are has compounded the fact that I have felt so isolated, and led me in desperation to make the PCT aware of the impact of their behaviour upon my health by formally lodging a grievance regarding the way the investigation was being managed.

The main points of this were initially ignored by the investigating team, prompting me to repeat my grievance to the chief executive.  This however did not get me very far as the reply was only to tell me what has happened to-date.

I fully support the campaign to tackle suspension injustice in the NHS. 

Yours sincerely

Another victim

Story 6

I think I can genuinely say that I have been to hell & back, almost ‘over the edge’.

I left working in A&E, after being bullied & forced out. From A&E, I moved into Mental Health (MH), working for an NHS Trust & did my ‘conversion’ (dual registration) some time later.  

The following year I began to experience difficulties in the workplace, because I would not be ‘occupationally socialised’   IE conform to the unprofessionalism & apathy now so clearly widespread within mental health. Because I could not accept less than adequate standards of practice & care delivery, I began to stand up & speak out. Initially this was informally, until I was leaving & insisted on a formal ‘exit interview’ to expose things going on. I voted with my feet hoping that I was moving to a better job. However this wasn’t to be the case.  

In my 2nd MH job, I again ran into difficulties for similar reasons. As a result, I had to take out a grievance, which was finally upheld over a year later.  

 During that grievance, because of the deteriorating workplace & bureaucracy in dealing with the grievance, I again voted with my feet & secured a transfer to a neighbouring team. There, a person (senior nurse) who knew me prior to the transfer prejudiced my new workplace colleagues (especially manager) & I was again the target of bullying, harassment, victimization, intimidation, & sexual harassment (amongst other things), commencing within 2 months of me starting my new post.  

I had to take out a 2nd grievance in order to try resolve things, as informal attempts had sadly either been ignored/dismissed or failed. Around the same time, someone else wrote in to a senior service manager, complaining of similar things. From that complaint we all got interviewed.  Ultimately, I ‘blew the whistle’ as I’d had enough of what was going on & the lack of intervention, & have since paid the price as I was not protected for disclosures under the PIDA (Public Interest Disclosure Act) & the organisational ‘Whistle-blowing’ policy. Once it was public knowledge I had ‘blown the whistle’, events intensified.  

Following a public incident, I informed my manager of their & others’ conduct & requested a formal meeting with them & my union. Within 2 days of that conversation, I was excluded (suspended), accused & defamed.  

In the following 8 months, I was investigated (what a joke that was!) with further accusations & defamations made, cleared & re-deployed against mine & the union’s will. I also initiated a 3rd & 4th grievance simultaneously (the 2nd one had not been acted on). Coincidentally, 2 managers (including my troublesome line manager) resigned. Interestingly, 2 other colleagues who also spoke out to an extent also experienced some repercussions & were re-deployed….whilst the perpetrators identified were ‘supported’, & some promoted !

 

I was signed off work by my GP with work-related stress & depression, on the advice/ stern warning of my union rep & legal officer. Due to events & effects, & because of a change in the law in October 2003, I had to & did legally initiate a 5th ‘collective’ grievance before I could consider going to an employment tribunal.

 

After obvious ‘delay’ tactics, I finally got to have a grievance hearing, which was upheld. However, my reputation, now labelled & disseminated as ‘trouble-maker’, ‘serial complainer’ & ‘perfectionist’, became clearly evident & thus my employment with the organisation (who I had been with since I 1st came into mental health) became untenable    IE – I won my case, but no longer had a job.

Thanks to the legal system & my union, I was left with little choice but to accept an ‘out-of-court compromise settlement’, which isn’t as rewarding as people imagine it to be! No amount of money can repair the damage that has been done or the costs incurred practically, financially, emotionally, & psychologically. Either way my now ex-employer won, as my intention was to go to employment tribunal, which is in the public domain & would expose certain individuals & everything that has gone on, & hold them to account.

 Sadly, my union also had a part to play in letting me down, by their occasional inactions, apathy & conflicts of interest. At times it felt like I was the only one fighting my corner, & was having to watch my back from all angles every step of the way, & unnecessarily prompt even those on my side ‘periodically’.

There has been no real/moral justice by speaking out, in terms of addressing the perpetrators & holding people to account, or in terms of ‘reward’. However, I wouldn’t change what I did. I’d just change the way I did it. At least I can hold my head up high, knowing that I have integrity, chose not to ‘go with the flow’ (of the sewerage), & took responsibility for identifying, addressing & trying to resolve unacceptable issues, & seeing through my actions.

 And that’s where I’m up to, practically: Lost my job & career, & no longer working for the NHS (a career I wanted since I was 15). I haven’t mentioned or included personal issues going on simultaneously to all the above, which only exacerbated matters. Things such as: 3 car accidents (including killing a dog & writing my car off) in the space of a year, being assaulted on a bus home after a night out to the cinema, & an attempted sexual assault by a male stranger when on a night out (despite positively ID’ing the male at a later date, he got off on a legal technicality!).

 As I hope you can imagine, events have taken their toll, manifesting in a myriad of emotions & practical, physical, emotional, & psychological effects. From around the middle of Dec 2003, I began to withdraw from people, as previous memories of A&E came back along with new effects from my last 3 workplaces. No-one was left out when I withdrew, including my family who - I am ashamed to say - had to send out a search party (my sister) all the way from New Zealand to locate me following an anonymous call to them. 

 Over time, including when I returned to work on being re-deployed in November 2003, I insidiously became somewhat depressed, with no self-worth, self-esteem, direction or motivation. I became melancholic & anhedonistic  [ look them up;-) ]. My ‘life’ became one big black hole/abyss - it was grey; I was numb. The whole situation consumed me & my waking time.

Regrettably, I used alcohol to cope, seriously abusing it. Luckily I averted drugs, & did not become a life time alcoholic. I have to be honest that the day I was suspended, accused & defamed was the worst day of my life, as were the months following. I am not ashamed to admit that I seriously contemplated suicide on 2/3 occasions. Please, do not be alarmed by this. I share this with you as I want to do my part to reduce the stigma of mental ‘ill-health’, & also so that if ever you get so low, you will know that you are not alone.

If I can say one thing, it’s to remember that your response to someone who is depressed/suicidal, or what they either express/exhibit, will affect them & also their ability to confide in you (especially blokes, who do not talk at the best of times!!). Your response says something about you – your own fears; your own coping; your own attitude/approach. Have time for people. Look for the warning signs (they are there).

 Luckily, on the 1st occasion, a friend’s passing comment in conversation unknowingly ‘saved’ me & I didn’t act on my pain. On the other few occasions, my stubbornness & respect for others were my saviours.

I can only now admit that I was destroyed & totally broken, both professionally & as a person/individual. The signs & symptoms, all so often quoted were all there, but it wasn’t until I unknowingly ‘broke’ & was sternly warned by my union, that I sought help. 

I am - gladly & thankfully - ‘on the road’ again, although a different & changed person, largely but not always for the better. For better & worse, I now have a low threshold for conflict & adverse situations. Others can interpret this as being brittle, hypersensitive or confrontational, when in fact all one is trying to do is (from negative past experience) ‘nip things in the bud’ & deal with things at source, promptly, so they don’t get out of hand/snowball.

Others’ critical opinions no longer bother me, however, as I am now able to justify my reactions & present reasoned, objective, researched & experiential logic against subjective opinion. I am glad to have discovered that how I am now is normal & rational for people in such circumstances (researched by professionals) – it took me a long time to get to this point, because people who should have been ‘in the know’ actually didn’t know & were labelling &/or scapegoating me.

Good things to come out of all this & my experiences – which I hope will bode me well in coming years – include real understanding of depression & suicide, which can only make things better personally & is an invaluable empathy in my job. Now the words in my textbooks have real meaning & images.

I have also acquired valuable, transferable skills & knowledge regarding team-working/relationships/dynamics; handling conflict; writing important (& sometimes legal) letters; time management; stress & MH management; basic employment & management good practice; leadership; Health & Safety at work; the legal system. I am currently composing an experiential guide about conflict management – who knows, I might get it published…?

Sadly, I have negatively learned that grievances & whistle blowing are not the done thing in the NHS, evidenced by a front-page article in the Manchester Evening News (Wednesday June 8, 2005 – ‘Doctors support hospital whistle-blower’). I was unpopular & suffered proven detriment as a result, especially as nurses do not support each other.

I have also learned about NHS bureaucracy, & that the NHS’s principles of transparency, openness, learning from incidents & events, staff development, model employer, etc are mere rhetoric – they are not applied in everyday, ‘local’ practice, as far as I am concerned anyway, based on 4 consecutive posts.

I can wholeheartedly say that I never want to go where I’ve been again, & am doing/will do everything to prevent that! I am slowly, gradually, daily, re-balancing things, getting a grip on life again, getting myself back on track, in control & in the driver’s seat. It ain’t going to happen overnight, & I have a lot (an unbelievable amount L - my sister & floors will tell you!) to catch up with/on from the last 3 years or so, in a very short & limited space of time.

However, I have finally begun the processes of healing, purging, de-junking & re-organising, I have gathered inspirations from many arenas including family, what friends I have left, external feedback, the collection of ‘inspirational’/’self-help’ books I have unwittingly gathered (& there are a few!), & work-based skills & strategies.

Having been rejected by my colleagues & employer, having no job, my career being in shreds, not being able to maintain my clinical development as is expected of me as a professional, & subsequently due to losing my identity, self-belief & confidence, along with my house being in ruins through neglect - any would say I am a mess?! - a major ‘life crisis’ naturally evolved. Following my ‘quarter-life’ crisis, I began to re-evaluate my life, & life in general. It gave me the opportunity to re-focus & ‘re-group’.

My future plans, at some point, would have included emigrating. However, events have just fast-forwarded plans & set the ball rolling. I am going to be emigrating to New Zealand over the coming months, all going well. Life here in England/the UK (all 20 years of it) is over for me, personally & professionally. My reputation, employment & career within the NHS is ‘signed, sealed & delivered’, & in the process I have one way or another also lost personal & colleague friends.

Whilst I will be leaving a very big part of my heart here, it is time to go & hope for/secure (depending how you look at it) better luck!  I need to establish my recovery, re-validation & closure, & I need a new beginning in a place that accepts & embraces diversity & individuality, innovation, excellence, change & challenge. One thing’s for certain, I will DEFO be actively screening & interviewing future prospective employers! My whole mindset has changed, thankfully – eventually – for the better. I doubt I will be staying in nursing, sadly.

And that’s it - a very ‘brief’ account (how many cuppas u had?).  I hope I have not depressed you, too much anyway? I hope there are no taboos about what I have talked openly about? Be reassured that how I responded to the unusual situation(s) is normal. To understand more:

·         About stress (especially work-related stress), look at the website www.hse.gov.uk

·         About bullying, look at the websites www.bullyonlline.org.uk; www.bbc.co.uk/bullying; www.bullying.co.uk

·         About depression/suicide, look at the website www.readthesigns.org  (there are loads more good websites)

·         About good employment practices, look at the websites www.hse.gov.uk & www.acas.org.uk

If you use a search engine such as Google & type in key words/phrases, you’ll get loads more info/sites!   

Your friend.

Story 7

Hello Julie, I am husband of …………………….. and know that in her communications to you she has mentioned the anger I feel at the shoddy way she is being treated and the cruel charade that is being played out by the NHS in the name of justice. This travesty is indeed grotesque and one which ignores the individual’s rights (in law), their sense of justice and decency, their mental anguish during long periods of suspension, their enforced isolation from work colleagues who are friends, the loss of structure in their day to day routine which up to now was greatly shaped by their  work - the job which has been such an important influence on all aspects of their lives. A job into which they have poured so much of themselves; these are caring people and they have chosen this work because they care deeply.

What a shocking way to treat such essential and important people.  Those who speak out are punished - pour encourager les autres - and so the others in fear of their jobs stay silent. The population at large can have no idea that such injustice is systemic in their much-loved ideal of the NHS and I for  one would enjoy pointing out to them that the emperor's fine clothes have indeed been spun but not by silkworms!

If my wife is dismissed from her job/career of many unblemished years and only has recourse to legal help for the appeal stage it's probably too late and their dismissal of her will smack of fait accompli. Mission accomplished team, troublemaker silenced. Oh yes the NHS is not perfect but the management have been given the power to make sure that the Great British Public never see just how awfully imperfect it really is. 

It appears to me that this power is an essential concomitant of their(management) remit to do whatever is necessary to keep the illusion of a highly-organised NHS striving to attain its targets, alive. A patient-centred 'industry' where you are in safe hands and any shortcomings can be aired in the public domain with transparent honesty and fairness. A sad illusion indeed and one whose perpetuation exacts a shocking cost from its conscientious workers.

I shall be writing to our SMP soon and wonder how much Amnesty International is aware of the totalitarian tendency in the NHS. I am fully aware that this will be a long struggle and that my wife may not benefit in her career from any results achieved but if the effort helps other poor souls downstream then it will be worth while. The destructiveness of a long suspension cannot be understated; it is time out of joint, limboland, a stealthy form of sensory deprivation. Essentially, you are smeared with a guilty tag, bound, gagged and left to prove your innocence as best you can. Dreadfully sad!

What is going on here is a negation of all civilised practices  won at high cost over many years.

I admire the time, effort and honest passion that you are putting in to help fight this 'ritual abuse', but above all I admire very much the simple fact that you are reacting at all.

If I could help in even the smallest way please ask. I'm not a public speaker but I can write and sometimes I get ideas :-)

Best Regards,

 
Story 8

AN ANONYMISED ACCOUNT OF THE EVENTS SURROUNDING THE IMPROPER USE OF SUSPENSION WITHIN THE NHS FOR “CAUSE”

 I am writing this account as a colleague who is entitled within the terms of the compromise agreement to know the circumstances surrounding the termination of this nurse’s contract with his/her health care organisation.  S/he can not give permission for this account because s/he is subject to a confidentiality agreement, the only purpose for which can be to avoid scrutiny of poor practice by a limited number of key or senior staff within the organisation.

 M was a nurse working in community palliative care.  S/he was suspended because of “a serious allegation” that had been made by a family the previous afternoon about the “great distress caused by allegedly withdrawing a service at what was already a very difficult time them.”  The actual allegation was that M had deliberately discontinued services to their terminally ill family member without permission from any member of the Trust Management, which caused great distress to the family concerned at what was already a very difficult time.  For M it was not difficult to guess who the family was because there was only one family on the team’s case list who had a terminally ill member but they were not named and M did not see their written statement until after the investigation. 

The day before the suspension M had taken the day off sick at the advice of a friend who could see that s/he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown having struggled for a month trying to deal with what felt like bullying and harassment from the team leader (it was a team of two at the time).  This was a new team that had just been set up.  After working with the other member of the team for five months M had concerns about the team lead’s management style and clinical ability.   Contrary to Trust policy M was required with the team leader to provide 24/7 cover in the home without a lone worker policy in place and contrary to European Working Time Directives.  M felt there had been a failure on the team lead’s behalf to share decisions and progress service development.  M was not kept informed of clinical decisions by the team leader and overall had concerns that the care provided was not approaching the standards that would be expected by a specialist nurse.  M was expected to get permission before meeting anyone, s/he was withdrawn from an important course s/he was half way through, s/he was frequently run down in front of other people, negative comments were made about M’s working style without any substantiation or suggestions on how to improve, s/he was set tasks and then not given the time to do them, the office secretary was asked to keep a check on all M’s activities and report back to the team lead, M’s mail was opened without consent and there was no toleration of human error such as double booking appointments. 

 M was a G grade specialist nurse with two years recent experience in palliative care including a year at an internationally recognised hospice.  The team leader did not have specialist qualification or recent clinical experience in palliative care.  It had got to the point, having already consulted with staff support and the Union that M felt s/he had to take the problem to Human Resources and the line manager.  Triplicate requests twice communicated to the director of nursing, human resources and the team leader had not been acknowledged or responded to.  M’s GP agreed with M’s decision to take a day off and recommended s/he approach the Union and the Director or Human Resources in view of the total failure of the PCT managers to assist in reconciliation.  Before phoning in sick M had checked that the family with a terminally ill member, who were receiving their services, did not need a visit immediately and then told them s/he was taking the day off sick.  It was not M’s turn to be on call for them that day, but on two previous occasions when they had difficulties and been unable to get help from the office number they had phoned M’s home number (it was an agreed practice to give families with a terminally ill member the nurses’ home number).  M explained s/he could not visit them at home whilst off sick but went on to say the cause of absence was not actually sickness.  M felt the family needed this reassurance that s/he would not be away for long and because M had visited them in their home the previous evening s/he did not want them to worry that s/he may have passed on an infection which could have proved fatal to their family member.  M told them the reason for being off was management issues.  M reminded them that they could always ring the home number.  M did this in case they were unable to get the help they needed by ringing the office number.  On a previous occasion when M was not on call they had felt dissatisfied with the arrangements made by the team leader and M had to make alternative arrangements for the family.  The following day, having decided on a strategy with regard to the bullying and harassment M felt s/he was being subjected to, s/he was back at work and ready to be on call for the family so s/he has always categorically denied that s/he withdrew any service.  Furthermore, M had only had one day off sick in the previous ten years.  At the time the team leader arranged for M’s suspension s/he would have been in receipt of M’s text message and an email indicating that M would be returning to work and was available for cover that weekend.   

Permission to suspend this nurse had been obtained from a very senior executive officer of the PCT by the person who the M felt was bullying him/her (the team leader).  The perpetrator of the alleged bullying had previously declared a personal relationship with this officer and twice used the individual’s name as a threat.  The senior executive by-passed the line manager (the nursing officer) and delegated authority to another non-operational manager who M had also had cause for concern about. M was expressly denied permission to remove personal property, including personal study resources, from Trust property by this same individual and all attempts over the next eight months to retrieve personal property were blocked.  When eventually a small amount of it was returned M was told that after such a period of time it would be unreasonable to expect that it could all be found now.  M was not allowed access to Trust property to confirm this.  Instead s/he was offered a derisory sum to compensate for the loss of almost an entire library of personal learning resources, which M refused.

 Two weeks after the suspension M was sent the date of the investigation which was on a day that had previously been booked as holiday, so the union representative got it postponed.  M was not allowed to know when the terminally ill patient s/he had been caring for died or to attend the funeral or attempt to communicate in any way with the family.  M found this almost unbearable.  When M. eventually saw the family’s written statement (and there is evidence from a colleague who is also a family friend of theirs that they made this under pressure from the person who was doing the bullying), their complaint was about the service as a whole, not specifically about M. The fact that they named M in a tribute in the local paper following the funeral further suggests that they had not meant to complain specifically about M. The complaint was never referred to the complaints officer.  M was misled by the investigating officer as to the existence of any written complaint (PCT policy requires it should have been sent to the union rep) having been told there was only an oral complaint, so M never had the opportunity to answer the comments made in that statement at the investigation interview.  The statement made it clear that they had no complaints about the standard of care they had received from M.  The representative from HR at that meeting must have been complicit in this deception and would have well known that PCT policy and reasonable natural justice was not being followed.

 The investigation took place six weeks after the suspension.  M’s partner was not allowed to be present to for support, despite a request for this.  Notes of the meeting, which went on for about two hours, were taken in longhand by a representative of the Trust and there was a lot of background builders’ noise going on.  It was clear that the note-taker was having difficulty hearing as s/he frequently asked for things to be repeated. The Trust’s Disciplinary Policy and Procedures policy clearly states that the aim of the investigation is to “produce a written statement of the employee’s account that is confirmed/jointly agreed as an accurate record at the end of the meeting.  The employee may wish to compose this statement personally or may wish the investigating officer to do this and then check it.  A pre-carbonated duplicate book may be useful here.  In either case the statement should be signed and dated at the end of the meeting” and this statement should be “confirmed/ jointly agreed at the conclusion of the interview and the employee provided with a personal copy”.  This did not happen and when M was finally sent a draft transcript of these notes they contained many inaccuracies, poor grammar, inconsistencies and absurd miss-hearings translated into the document.  In particular M’s statement relating to the allegation that M had told the family that M “would not be coming in again” critically left off the end of that statement that they would not be coming in that day.  The Union representative was not available to speak to until ten days later.  The amended draft was submitted to the Human Resources department.  They took two weeks to respond and refused to make many of the substantive amendments and were expecting M to sign a statement which was inaccurate.  It was clear that there was not going to be any opportunity given to M to make his/her statement rather than the statement the human resources officer wished M to make. 

 It was now one day before the deadline for presenting the report to the person who would decide whether or not there was a case to answer.  M’s Union intervened, insisting that HR use the amended draft which was the one M had signed but both the agreed and the contested statements were presented.  The Investigation report was dated the day before receipt of the amended statement.  There is no evidence that this was considered in the investigating officer’s report.  M’s signed statement had been crudely altered with the use of photocopy and mask.  Twelve days later M was told that her case was to go forward to a disciplinary.  M also for the first time saw the statements made to the investigating officer.  These contained unsubstantiated comments from the person who M felt had been bullying him/her, a telephone call to the investigating officer which was overwhelmingly supportive but one negative comment about M’s bed-side manner.  The individual who made that call who would never have been in a position to form such a judgement categorically denied that s/he had said this.  Not all the statements were signed or written in the first person, as stipulated in the Trust policy.  The investigating officer appeared not to have made any attempt to consider the possibility of bias given the acknowledged breakdown in team relationships that s/he was fully aware of and noted in his/her report.  The report itself contained contradictory statements some of which actually refuted the allegation, had added new allegations concerning use of the sickness policy and then sought to justify this by misquoting the Trust sickness policy. The investigation officer admitted him/herself that this was the first time s/he had done such a report and s/he needed training. The Union had a copy of this letter.  The report failed to address the allegation or provide evidence for the same.  On the other hand it made no mention of obvious documents and actions by M that clearly made the allegation unsustainable.

 There were numerous delays in organising the Disciplinary.  Inappropriate people were appointed to the panel; time had to be allowed because of the new allegations which had been brought in; the family that the allegation centred around were not allowed to be present to be cross examined and it seemed to prove almost impossible to gather the relevant people together on the same day.  Meanwhile the Union representative had presented a very strong Statement of Case refuting the allegation and M had some senior and influential people who had agreed to attend and provide character references.   

 It is perhaps a commentary on the shock with which M’s suspension was received in the local health community that the matron of the local community hospital with whom M had previously worked refused to sit on the disciplinary panel.  S/he commented that s/he had learnt more from M than any other nurse and was prepared to come as a witness to M’s competence and dedication.  M had also worked with a more senior matron of another community hospital nearby and another colleague who is the foremost international authority on the relevant nursing speciality.  Both were scheduled to speak as character witnesses to support M at a disciplinary hearing.

 “Without prejudice” negotiations began between Human Resources and the Union for a compromise agreement.  The eve of the disciplinary, which was eight months after the suspension, M was given 20 minutes over the ‘phone to agree to the terms of the compromise agreement, which contained a financial settlement and an agreed reference in return for resignation and a very comprehensive confidentiality clause.  By this time M had decided that if not completely exonerated of the allegation s/he would appeal and if necessary go forward to an Industrial Tribunal.  In view of the experiences over the past eight months, M was not confident of a fair hearing at the disciplinary with a PCT who had not previously followed their own policies, or that the Union would provide effective support.  M wanted to return to work in order to regain confidence and self esteem which was at an all-time low so agreed to the compromise which was duly signed off a month later.  Despite requesting an exit interview, any form of critical event analysis was avoided by the PCT.  There is no evidence that the allegation of bullying was followed up (contrary to Trust policy) or that the patient’s family’s complaint was addressed.

 It has not been easy for M to get another job.  It would appear that the Trust did not keep their part of the agreement because in the three instances when M used them for a reference, having had a very positive interview and in one instance even begun working some shifts, for no clear reason M was rejected.  There was clear evidence from one prospective employer that the reference was not given in a manner agreed in the compromise agreement.  M now works outside of the NHS with the subsequent loss of an NHS pension.  Even now, nearly two years after the suspension, M has said told me that s/he still feels a great sense of injustice when s/he recall the events. S/he has still not fully regained his/her confidence and has flash-backs and bad dreams about the suspension.  M’s partner has also suffered a great deal of stress over this.  They feel bitter towards those involved and have concerns that some of them are still able to continue damaging their colleagues and their patients and families in the way they were damaged.

 Since the suspension, the manager who received delegated responsibility to suspend M is on long term sick leave, the nursing manager making the decision to go forward to a disciplinary left in very hurried and covert circumstances as did the Union representative and one of the Human Resources managers implicated is having a grievance brought against him/her by another manager.  The PCT is now in a very unstable state facing a large overspend, struggling to re-organise with many key people not at their desks.

 The Chief Nurse believes there are no dysfunctional management styles in the NHS which are wrecking people’s lives.  It is normal for the obvious to be denied by the Department of Health even in the face of the obvious, so this is not surprising.  The misuse of or threat of suspension and poor management has been well documented in two reports.  There are many other instances of this type of incident.  Though things are getting somewhat better for physicians working in acute hospital trusts through the work of the National Patients Safety Agency there are continued worries about the ability of PCTs to properly investigate concerns about primary care clinicians and other community staff, including nurses.  The care of patients was in fact compromised by the actions of the PCT in suspending the only properly qualified member of the team.

 M’s story is a telling example of a failure of clinical governance.  Policies and guidance are put in place by trusts to protect patients and staff.  When these are not followed there is a significant risk of harm.  It is surprising that health care organisations still think it appropriate to avoid scrutiny with the use of confidentiality clauses that have been heavily criticised by two government select committees with the agreement of Sir Nigel Crisp.

 Story 9

 I was a senior staff nurse in an accident and emergency department. i was suspended in 2004 for four months,

Evidence presented at the hearing alleged i had been "wilfully negligent" in my care of a patient in my care. I had asked for a junior nurse to assess this patient while Iwas dealing with another patient. This nurse failed to complete this assessment fully leaving several observations needing to be done. She would have been able to recognise any significant problem and initiate any action needed. She did not alert me to any concerns and left the cubicle. At this point the next shift had arrived and so I had handed care over for this patient, as well as informed my colleague of what still needed to be done, prior to going on an UNPAID lunch break. Vital observations I asked to be carried out were not done by my colleague as I had asked. The patient sadly died and i was held accountable for these observations, and consequences despite having handed care over and been on a break.

I was told i was to be suspended a few days later having had no opportunity to discuss this incident with my manager or senior nurse. The only discussion that had taken place was with the consultant on that day. Prior to my hearing i was presented with a letter saying i should just "accept" a written warning, without a hearing or face potential dismissal. This was felt by myself and union rep as an attempt to bully me into accepting guilt without having any opportunity to offer a defence.

I had received no negative feedback regarding my work up until the point of being suspended and had received positive appraisals for my work. A senior nurse who had carried out this appraisal, and had initiated the disciplinary process against me, suggested during the hearing my work had been sub standard for some time and i had difficulties working and communicating with staff, and was lazy. In the appraisal we had a few months previously she suggested i was none of these things and a very effective hard working nurse. I had received no other concerns from her or any other senior nurses up to this point. This rather obvious inconsistency in her accounts of my standards of work, and the written evidence of the appraisal document was not taken into account. Also not taken into account was the actions of the two other nurses involved who where junior to me and had not done any of the tasks i had asked of them. The other nurses involved where not disciplined. The consultant who had a brief conversation me prior to my suspension alleged i had made inappropriate comments and responses to his questions, which were untrue and in any case were not witnessed or documented.

My union rep appeared to be powerless to intervene or defend my case effectively. any evidence or argument we presented was dismissed, or ignored.

The outcome was that I given a formal written warning. i returned to work to face further allegations from the same senior nurse that had presented a false picture of my standards of care, attitude and ability. in the end i left and will face the prospect of rebuilding my a&e career, although at the moment i feel i have very little confidence even two years on to return to the same trust or clinical environment or within any NHS hospital trust. The effect on my health was of making me very stressed and since this i have developed physical symptoms of illness related entirely to the stress of this event. I felt victimised and bullied and did not feel i would have a chance of a fair trial in any appeal.

Financially, i was on basic pay which left me £200-£300 month worse off meaning i had to draw heavily on personal savings.

The trust involved has been awarded 3 star status and is currently attempting to gain foundation status.

Story 10

Ian Perkin - An NHS Whistleblower and member of the NHS Reform Group.

A brief outline of my case is that I, Ian Perkin, worked in the public sector for a continuous period of thirty-two years. During that period I never had any complaint made against me by anyone, in fact I was promoted on numerous occasions, and in 1990 I was appointed to Director of Finance of St George’s Health Care NHS Trust one of the biggest NHS Trust’s in the country.

During my time with the NHS I received letters thanking me for the contribution I was making to the NHS from people such as Sir Donald Cruickshank (who went on to become Chairman of the London Stock Exchange) and Lady Elizabeth Valance (a member of the Committee on Standards in Public Life).
In the year 2000 in addition to being Director of Finance I became Director of Information and computing.

In October 2001 a junior member of the information team reported to her manager that the Deputy Chief Executive was instructing her to reduce the number of operations that the hospital were cancelling at short notice to zero, when over a period of a few weeks more than eighty operations had been cancelled. This matter was then reported to me as Director of Information.

I reported this matter to the Chief Executive Ian Hamilton and that is when my problems started with me losing my job soon afterwards.
Interestingly, while I ended up sacked the Deputy Chief Executive John Parkes, who later
was found by an NHS investigation to have ordered the inappropriate alterations to me made to the cancelled operations statistics went on to become Chief Executive of several more NHS organisations. The matter was reported in many newspapers and on the TV and radio at the time including the Guardian.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2004/oct/20/NHS.uknews
I understand that he is now Chief Executive of Northamptonshire PCT

http://www.foi.northants.nhs.uk/Resources/Contacts/People/chiefpct.jsp

The Chairman of the Trust Catherine McLoughlin called me to a private meeting to tell me that she considered I had unreasonably caused tension with my board colleagues by raising this issue and the Chief Nurse Marie Grant sent an e-mail to all members of the Board saying it was disappointing that I had chosen to raise this issue.

Nine months later in October 2002 I was suspended from my job and subjected to a biased disciplinary hearing chaired by the Chairman which led to my dismissal from my employment in December 2002.

I took the Trust to an employment tribunal and was successful, despite the Trust’s denials that they had done anything wrong at all, in proving that I had been unfairly dismissed by St George’s both because of a biased hearing and because my rights to natural justice had been denied me (my contractual entitlement to an internal NHS appeal was refused). In addition thanks to the young lady in the Information Department being kind enough to provide a sworn statement to the Tribunal, I was able, again contrary to NHS denials, to prove that I had made a protected disclosure under the terms of the Public Interest Disclosure Act.

The Act is supposed to provide protection to “whistle-blowers” but in my case as in many others it provided no protection at all, because although I had won my case for unfair dismissal and proved I had made a protected disclosure under PIDA, the NHS argued that this was not the reason that I had been dismissed, but my sacking was because I was not considered to be a “ team player “ and had made unfounded allegations against my former Chief Executive and other senior NHS staff.

It was an argument that the Employment Tribunal accepted, so that although I won my case it was a pyrrhic victory in that I was awarded no compensation at all. The allegation that I had made unfounded allegations was never investigated by the NHS until after the Employment Tribunal had ended, a tribunal at which the only evidence given against me at the Tribunal was given by the very people who had conducted the proven biased disciplinary hearing.

By the time the NHS investigation (authorised very belatedly by the then NHS Chief Executive Sir Nigel Crisp) had reported, both my former Chairman and Chief Executive had left their posts and the report and so avoided the national publicity which showed that the Employment Tribunal had been wrong to accept the NHS evidence that I had made unfounded allegations about the Chief Executive Ian Hamilton, because the NHS’s own investigation showed that among other things that Hamilton had charged the part of the cost of a private party held at the London Savoy Hotel to the NHS.
The matter was reported in the London Evening Standard.
http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-14130079-waiting-list-cheats.do

You will note that the other well known NHS figure mentioned in the newspaper
article, as a result of the information I provided was Sir Andrew Dillon who is currently the Chief Executive of the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE).

Another individual involved in dismissing me from St George’s was the Medical Director Paul Jones. One would expect a Medical Director to be someone who would always act with great integrity and make sound judgments in the performance of the role.

However, one day after my Employment Tribunal ended the NHS was issuing a High Court apology in respect of statements he had made about the clinician who was in charge of the reproductive medicine centre at St Georges.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2003/jun/20/NHS.politics

As a post script, despite having been branded by the NHS as not a “team player” I have gone on to build a second successful career as Treasurer of Surrey Police Authority where I have been Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer for the last five and a half years.

If you want to know more about my experience with the NHS the Times wrote an article on the way I was treated.
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/article1015524.ece
and I got good coverage from the BBC including an appearance on the Hardtalk
programme
http://news.bbc.co.uk/olmedia/cta/progs/03/hardtalk/perkins22apr.ram

The other thing I discovered is that while politicians claim that they support “whistle-blowers” the reality is something else. The current government is using John Hutton to conduct an investigation into Pensions .
I simply would not trust him to look into anything
http://www.nhsexpose.co.uk/john_hutton.htm


I know that my case has been used as case law to get rid of other “whistle-blowers” in other organisations both within the NHS and outside and I am very sorry for that, which is why I remain available to give confidential advice and help to anyone who finds themselves in such a difficult situation.

I continue to give media interviews on whistle-blowing to the media. In the past couple of months I did BBC radio interviews on the subject including on the Nicky Campbell Show and I did a Channel 4 News interview with Jon Snow in June of this year on the Airdale Hospital scandal.

http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/uk/airedale+hospital+deaths+apos
due+to+systemic+failuresapos/3674227.html

In my view the NHS will never become really effective and prosper until we reach a position, where NHS staff believe that if they make a disclosure under PIDA, it will be properly and independently investigated and that this will be the focus of any action taken, rather than what in my experience has been an approach of trying to ignore the factual matter being complained of and all the effort going into trying to ruin the character and reputation of the complainant, while promoting and rewarding and making excuses for those senior NHS individuals who the NHS should be holding to account.
Ian Perkin