Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Blow the Whistle? Absolutely not unless.....

12 years ago I would have said yes, we must raise concerns when we have them.  It is only fair to patients and colleagues.

In a short space of time, after starting the website, I began to realise that it was an extremely dangerous thing to do and counterproductive, because people were silenced and disappeared, almost without trace down some sort of NHS black hole equivalent.

That sounds dramatic I know, but the whistleblower was silenced by false allegations being made against them followed by suspension, with the customary warning not to contact work colleagues or go on to trust property.

It was very effective.  A delay before the unsubstantiated allegations were sent in the post – probably by second class post.  No hurry here – very demoralising.  Then another wait till the investigatory interview, followed by another long wait before a date for a disciplinary hearing was set.  The whole thing a kangaroo court travesty of injustice with the whistleblower’s defence ignored.

By this time they are fighting for their professional career and have very little energy left to return to the concerns they tried to raise.

You see, the whole point of needing to whistle blow in the first place is that the managers are not listening, don’t want to listen and may even be friends and protectors of the poor practitioners etc.
If you look at the Patients First website ( you’ll see a gallery of eminent whistleblowers whose stories make your blood boil, the injustices they have suffered at terrible personal cost on every front – emotional, physical, psychological, relational, and financial for example.
Endless policies have been written and staff even threatened with disciplinary action if they don’t speak up.  No action is contemplated against managers who don’t respond, though there are stirrings post Francis report! 
No action against the staff who make false allegations. 
No actions against investigators who start a search (witch hunt) to find anything they can to add to the charges to justify their suspension/silencing of the staff member,and increasing their distress.

Helene Donnelly who bravely raised concerns at Mid Staffs and who suffered the consequences, was so fortunate to get out before she was silenced.  And her heroism has come to light because of the tireless campaign by Julie Bailey and others, to get justice for the many people who needlessly died in that place, also at considerable personal cost to Julie.  See

There is a glimmer of light in Terry Dennis’s paper ‘Coping with toxic organisations’ (see Information Services)  in which he suggests ways of starting to carry colleagues with you when you want to try and change the situation.  He warns it is not for the fainthearted and a slow process.

And that’s the problem – people’s homes depend on their incomes and there have been people who have contacted us, who have lost their homes after losing their livelihoods.

A very strange phenomenon is that where whistleblowers are being very effectively silenced at one end of the spectrum, at the other end of the spectrum, where there has been gross misconduct by staff, managers have covered up and protected these practitioners.  See to follow one such tragic story. 
Blow the whistle – definitely not unless the rest of the staff will stand with you and you can get someone to investigate from outside the organisation who actually has the power and the willingness to intervene.  Ah, there’s the rub……

Thursday, 11 April 2013

English Chief Nurses - Can't Help, Won't Help

Dame Sarah Mullally was the English chief nurse when the suspension website
( )  was set up in 2003.  She granted me a 10 minute phone call, was empathetic and a realist.  She was unable to offer any help at that time with the way things were in the Department of Health and the Government.

Professor Christine Beasley (now also Dame) came to the helm.  I wrote to her.  Silence.  Craig in our team fared much better.  Dame Beasley denied there was a problem of unjust suspensions in the NHS.  And she should know because she was travelling the country and meeting lots of people.

That was a staggering response of utter ignorance about people.  As if trusts are going to admit to problems.  Of course they get out the red carpet and show how everything in the garden is rosy.  She needed to look below the surface at mortality rates, staff sickness and retention rates – to name a few. 
She couldn’t look at numbers of staff currently suspended because the Department of Health refused to have any record kept.  Too scared as they already knew the numbers were high from the National Audit Office report of 2003 (The Management of Suspensions of Clinical Staff in NHS Hospital and Ambulance Trusts in England Nov. 6th ’03)

Back to the English chief nurse – about 30 people sent her their stories in strict confidence and some fear and trepidation in case anything was leaked to the offending trusts, for fear of reprisals.

Her response, in collaboration with The National Patient Safety Agency, was to set out some Principles - 
Title : Handling concerns about the performance of healthcare professionals:
principles of good practice
Author DH & National Patient Safety Agency
Publication Date September 2006
Target Audience PCT CEs, NHS Trusts CEs, SHA CEs, Care Trust CEs, Foundation Trust CEs,
Medical Directors, Directors of Nursing, NHS Trust Board Chairs, Special HA
CEs, Directors of HR, Allied Health Professionals, GPs, Communications
Circulation List PCT CEs, NHS Trusts CEs, SHA CEs, Foundation Trust CEs,
Medical Directors, Directors of Nursing, NHS Trust Board Chairs, Special HA
CEs, Directors of HR, Allied Health Professionals, GPs, Communications
Leads, Emergency Care Leads, NDPBs, Independent Healthcare Leads
Description This best practice guidance on handling concerns about professional
practice has been developed collaboratively by senior individuals of all
healthcare professions, regulators, commissioners and patient groups. It
will be useful in all settings where healthcare is offered and encompasses
everyone whatever their position in the organisation

Now why would anyone imagine that these malfunctioning managers are going to know about the Principles, let alone adhere to them.
‘Oh look, our beloved leader says we should be doing this.  What a good idea.  Transparent and fair – what a good idea.’

It would be laughable if it weren’t that people are being destroyed by these people – horrendous.

So it was a complete waste of time as managers already had the Incident Decision Tree to guide them what action was necessary when there were problems, and Root Cause Analysis to identify systems failures and how to prevent any further problems.
If they’d ever done it in the first place.
A lot of the people we at CAUSE were hearing from, were innocent targets.

Big sigh. Oh the pain and suffering that is going on right now and people just don’t know unless they are directly involved.
Will it ever end?

Monday, 8 April 2013

The Devastation of Suspension - Never a Neutral Act

One of the things that distresses me beyond words is the way innocent staff are accused of things they haven’t done and told that it’s ok, that suspension is a neutral act.

How can it be neutral when it sends someone into a state of shock. If it were neutral, the suspended person would not feel threatened.

Isolated, ill, humiliated, and one’s work rubbished as the person has been torn away from it, instantly.

Lord Justice Elias, at the Court of Appeal, made these observations about suspension.  ( See

This case raises a matter which causes me some concern. It appears to be the almost automatic response of many employers to allegations of this kind to suspend the employees concerned, and to forbid them from contacting anyone, as soon as a complaint is made, and quite irrespective of the likelihood of the complaint being established. As Lady Justice Hale, as she was, pointed out in Gogay v Herfordshire County Council [2000] IRLR 703, even where there is evidence supporting an investigation, that does not mean that suspension is automatically justified. 
It should not be a knee jerk reaction, and it will be a breach of the duty of trust and confidence towards the employee if it is. 
I appreciate that suspension is often said to be in the employee's best interests; but many employees would question that, and in my view they would often be right to do so. They will frequently feel belittled and demoralised by the total exclusion from work and the enforced removal from their work colleagues, many of whom will be friends. This can be psychologically very damaging. 
Even if they are subsequently cleared of the charges, the suspicions are likely to linger, not least I suspect because the suspension appears to add credence to them. 
It would be an interesting piece of social research to discover to what extent those conducting disciplinary hearings subconsciously start from the assumption that the employee suspended in this way is guilty and look for evidence to confirm it. 
It was partly to correct that danger that the courts have imposed an obligation on the employers to ensure that they focus as much on evidence which exculpates the employee as on that which inculpates him.

How true all this is, though couched in cautious language!

I suspect that the manager who has made the decision to suspend the staff member will now try to justify their draconian action to their colleagues so are bent on finding anything and everything to add credence to their action. It is not subconscious in my view, but deliberate, the words ‘witch hunt’ coming to mind. 

What injustice and what a mess and no one knows this is going on except the poor people experiencing it and an employment tribunal, if it gets that far.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Malicious, Malfunctioning, Cowardly or Just Plain Incompetent - Some managers

So what am I trying to expose about these malfunctioning, inept or possibly downright evil  managers.  Is evil too strong a word for the worst sort?  The accusations against the senior nurses at present before the Nursing and Midwifery Council from Mid Staffs Hospital, describe severely bullying behaviour that destroys people.  Surely that’s evil, whatever the pressures on the people perpetrating such behaviour?

I have known a couple of people who have been very badly treated and who have become obsessed with fighting back through employment tribunals, running out of money, destroying their marriages and becoming convinced that there is a great conspiracy going on out there.

Does the truth prevail or will it finally be revealed? 
There are people who have been struck off by the NMC who are entirely innocent.  There are other staff who have been disciplined for things they didn’t do.  I think these numbers are substantial.

Where are the unions?  That will have to wait for another blog!

I’ve often thought about these managers, how they can do these things.  Who are they?  Where is their integrity?  As they have often been suppressing the truth, are they safe to have working in the NHS?  I think not.  If they lie in these proportions, what else are they capable of?

Teachers say that failed teachers often end up working as Ofsted inspectors.  Sometimes nursing staff wonder if the same process is in action in the NHS.   One thing these management people are very good at, is talking.  They are very convincing, especially to their superiors.

The whole culture can become very destructive.  Terry Dennis, of the wonderful Dignified Revolution campaign group  (  has produced two papers about toxic organisations and difficult colleagues, available to download at 
( See Articles. ) Mr Dennis quotes well known psychological experiments that demonstrate how managers can lose the plot and how other staff join in, for a variety of reasons. 

One of the shocks for many suspended people, is the way people they thought were friends, turn against them.  Many people say that they found out who their friends really were when they suffered their nightmare experience.

As the managers are currently wholly unaccountable to any outside agency, they are free to behave in these ways until the day they retire, leaving a trail of destruction behind them.

Hopefully all this will change since the release of the Francis Report into Mid Staffs and the concerted actions of groups like Patients First ( and Cure the NHS ( ).

So on that optimistic note, I’ll stop.
With best wishes

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Unjust Suspensions - Their Devastating Impact

The nurse or midwife gets a call to go to the office.  There is often no indication of what is about to happen.  Often they are not told to bring a union rep (if they are a member) or a trusted colleague if they are not, and they don’t think to try and find out what it is all about.

They walk in to a room with their line manager and someone from Human Resources sitting waiting for them.  They start to feel anxious.  They are invited to sit down and told they are to be suspended because of allegations that have been made about them. 

The information they are given is sparse.  Sometimes it is virtually non existent.  Sometimes they are given a copy of the trust’s disciplinary policies, sometimes they have to request it later.

Then they are asked for their ID and any keys and ‘marched off the premises’ – the phrase often used, with their shocked colleagues looking on.  Oh the shame and humiliation of it.

Worse than that is a phone call telling them they are not to come into work and that they will receive a letter telling them why.  Then the process I mentioned in my previous blog entry, kicks in.

So what impact does this terrible shock have on them?

They can’t eat, they can’t sleep, they can’t think straight except racking their brains trying to remember what it is that they are supposed to have done.  If their families are around, they are equally shocked and also very very angry that their lovely family member has been treated in this way.

There is a standard letter used by HR that tells them they are not to contact anyone or go into work.  So what if their partner works for the trust?  What if they need to attend hospital for themselves or a family member?  What if the people they work with are very good friends?

On our website, there is a template letter people can use to challenge this instruction.  It is for the trust to show that it is proportionate and reasonable (See the Home page of
An ACAS helpline adviser told us that there is no legislation that supports this instruction. A Human Rights Commission adviser told us that it is an infringement of the Human Rights Act 1998 Article 8 that allows people the right to respect for private and family life.  See
Where are the unions on this?  Why haven’t they challenged this already?

It is no wonder that many people suffer psychological injury and require urgent treatment.  Many people describe having suicidal thoughts and some have even attempted it. 

Worst of all, the managers have absolutely no idea of all this, or if they do, they don’t have any compassion or loyalty or belief in their staff, another shock to the suspended staff member.

The suffering is one reason why the team at still carries on, having experienced so much of these feelings ourselves.

So those of you who get to read this and who have no knowledge of these terrible injustices and injuries to staff, just consider the possibility that suspended people may not actually be guilty of any wrongdoing but will be suffering terribly.

On this sad note, my best wishes to you

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

NHS Managers, Unjust Suspensions and Kangaroo Courts

Things are hotting up for the devious managers still very much at large in the NHS but still terrible injustices are taking place for NHS staff and you the reader, know nothing about them unless you have been a victim or know someone who has.

It is unbelievable. False allegations, unjust suspensions, kangaroo investigations, extended to disciplinaries, and then punishment of some sort or another to silence the victim.  In the worst case scenario they are dismissed and reported to the Nursing and Midwifery Council where a new nightmare begins.

How do I know these things?

Not only was I suspended unjustly after a critical incident, and then again, accused of an impossible action, (yes I know, very careless of me but once you’ve been suspended, you are always in danger) I became a founder member of CAUSE – the Campaign Against Unnecessary Suspensions and Exclusions in the NHS.  That was in June 2003 and nearly 500 people later – only the tip of the iceberg I hasten to add, of the numbers of staff in the NHS suspended in that time – I have heard a similar story with depressing and monotonous regularity. 

So have the wonderful team of people who have also been victims of these suspensions and who, by helping others, see these horrendous processes repeated, as if there were a manual these devious or malfunctioning managers, follow.

I’m writing this blog as a way of trying to reduce the stress caused when I open emails and read terrible stories sent by devastated staff.  Because that’s what suspension does to people.  Their families too.

We guard the confidentiality of the people who contact us with great care.  They are already living in terrible fear.  My comments will always be general, with no specific details of particular cases so that people cannot be identified.

Our dream is that one day, managers will no longer be able to do these things to staff and that the NHS will truly become a HEALTHY service to work in, not the place it is at present for many people.

I’m extremely grateful to the Nursing Times for its stories of excellent practice in well led trusts, where staff are truly valued and any concerns properly dealt with to improve and learn, not blame and silence. Patient mortality rates are low too!  It gives me hope.

 CAUSE also supports the Nursing Times campaign Speak Out Safely, aiming to bring about an honest and transparent NHS that protects staff who speak out.  See
You can read more about CAUSE on the website. It’s so good to have got started and my thanks to my son who set up and updates our website and who helped me set up this blog.  No more unjust suspensions is my prayer…..

With best wishes to all my innocent readers