Friday, 3 October 2014
Sometimes a leader in nursing in the NHS writes something that seems so patently obvious that it is quite breathtaking that it had to be written, but is also so true. Deputy chief nurse Pete Murphy did just that in an article for the Nursing Times about improving nursing (Nursing Times Staff Management article 24 9 14).
He wrote ‘You (as a deputy chief nurse) cannot sit in your office and be effective, you have to get out and about, see and talk to patients and staff to understand the opportunities and pressures that exist. Personal integrity is key.’
One of the saddest aspects of unjust and unnecessary suspensions, is the lack of knowledge by the managers concerned higher up the chain of command, who don’t know their staff, and don’t know that this is a silencing or bullying issue. Such disloyalty, such ignorance as to the very severe damage this action does to people, sometimes destroying them, is utterly depressing.
It also needs an environment where leaders are allowed to do this, to know staff in order to support them. In the early days of CAUSE, we heard from a first level manager who tried to do just that and was nearly destroyed. False allegations, suspension, disciplinary action, removal to another part of the organisation. It was more than a year before she was well enough to work again, outside the NHS of course. Who would trust anyone there again?
‘Personal integrity is key’ is the other staggering comment written by Mr Murphy. Something that you would expect to be a given, has to be written. That is another problem with unjust and unnecessary suspensions. The suspending manager now has to justify their action, prove themselves competent to their colleagues. A ‘transparent and fair investigation’ – they don’t know the meaning of these words. What they do know, is that they now have to prove their action was justified, so the witch hunt begins. Look at record keeping, talk to other staff to see if someone there will complain about this staff member who has annoyed the manager by speaking out or by being very good at their job and well respected by the patients. Integrity? They don’t know the meaning of that word either.
One of the aspects of the whole sordid business for family members and friends, observing events, is their astonishment and disbelief that this can happen without any other managers being aware and that the poor powerless staff member, the ‘accused’ has no redress. The words ‘kangaroo court’ are often used to describe these situations.
Thinking about the inquiry into whistleblowing by Sir Robert Francis, the team seem to be starting at the wrong end of the problem. Yes they need to hear people’s stories, the like of which they have already listened to in the Mid Staffs inquiry, but they also need to be interviewing the very managers involved in the injustices to see what can be done to prevent them from behaving in these horrendous ways. They won’t hear any truth from them of course. They will be trying to save their careers. That is what makes it so difficult.
So back to Mr Murphy. I hope his words have an impact but fear that the people who should be reading them, don’t take professional journals, don’t keep up to date and avoid self reflection like the plague.
Gloomily yet again!