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Nurse in Gloucester and Cheltenham "suicidally depressed by work overload"

By The Citizen  |  Posted: February 26, 2013

"VICTIM OF LIES": A nurse and elderly patient posed by models.

Comments (8)

IN the wake of the whistleblowing scandal, one former nurse at Holly House, in Gloucester, today speaks anonymously about her time with the 2gether NHS Foundation Trust about standards of care and the treatment of staff

"I AM appalled by the recent revelations at Stafford and recognise that there must be individuals who are so careless of others' lives and well being that they should never have been employed as nurses, doctors, care assistants – proverbial bad apples.

However, I have long felt that the major fault in the NHS is the culture of frequent service redesign, blame and scapegoating.

For many years I worked as a nurse in Gloucester and Cheltenham but retired early a few years ago following a disciplinary which tore me apart. I, like the nurse mentioned in The Citizen who is facing sanction by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, had drawn attention in writing and verbally on many occasions to the fact that I had not been given adequate support or instruction in my job.

Although I had asked for help I was repeatedly told that my work was satisfactory – I knew it was not but the management chose to ignore my cries for help.

Ultimately I became suicidally depressed as a result of the work overload and following an incident which laid bare the problems I was experiencing I was suspended and disciplined.

I held my hands up to the error and was ultimately offered a return to work at a lower grade and with the proviso that I met all kinds of rehabilitative conditions.

I knew I was going to leave – had the Trust sacked me I would have sued them for wrongful dismissal but I knew I would never work for the NHS again.

My point is that there are many practitioners who do get into trouble but that the root cause of the problem is never addressed.

Management staff within the NHS are often inexperienced and unsupported in trying to manage their departments and senior management prefer to turn a blind eye to problems until someone hits their radar.

In my case I had repeatedly drawn attention to my problems and was always ignored.

Having read the reports that those management staff wrote about me for the disciplinary I have to say that many of them lied about me quite blatantly.

I would no more have let a patient go uncared for in the matter of basic needs or turned a deaf ear to the needs of a patient than fly to the moon. I had an exemplary history behind me but I was inadequately prepared for my role and heavily overloaded with clinical work - I always saw a patient if they needed to be seen and it was my tendency to see to that rather than keep on top of the ludicrous amounts of paperwork that led to my downfall.

I have seen many examples of blatantly bad nursing at all levels but am aware of how effectively easy it is to remain as a manager (often being promoted upward) when things are going wrong. At the time I was disciplined nurses were being suspended and disciplined on a frequent basis – I can only assume they were in similar case to me. None of them seemed to be at heart bad nurses.

But I have also seen throughout a long career, downright cruelty, appalling insensitivity and couldn't care less attitudes. This is visible at all levels of nursing and also in other medical professions.

I make no apologies for the terrible shortcomings that are being witnessed these days and feel that there is no excuse for neglect of the basic needs of the patient. The graduate training of nurses is a total red herring – nursing in the twenty first century needs highly trained nurses.

What it also needs are better trained and better paid intermediary levels – remember the State Enrolled Nurse? Care assistants receive much more training nowadays than previously but their role is changing and they have more and more responsibility for which they are underpaid and often unappreciated.

There have always been nurses who should never have been allowed within five miles of a sick person – I have witnessed this professionally and personally.

Please do not condemn all hospital staff as uncaring and unthinking. Believe me, the cry of exhaustion and not enough time is not just an excuse; nurses are exhausted and living and working in an unhealthy culture which puts targets, financial gain and personal aggrandisement way ahead of patient care.

Good luck to you all out there on the ward and in the community; the world knows that most of you are at heart committed and caring human beings.

NHS – you need to sort out the way you treat your staff and acknowledge that there are some needs which are more important than a balance sheet.

Public/patients – I do firmly believe that most nurses do want to care and will go many extra miles to do what they can for patient welfare. Take heart from the letters appearing in the press praising the good work that nurses do and remember that a good nurse may be from any level. I am aware that managers feel the need to protect themselves, which is why good nurses such as myself and many others find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time and fail to whistleblow or successfully defend themselves and their colleagues or to speak for the patient.

After my disciplinary I was told that no word of what went on in the room should ever be spoken outside which is why it has taken me a while to try and explain to people the contorted way in which the NHS works. Secrecy in a disciplinary is a good thing when it protects the innocent but when its apparent aim is to protect management it is questionable.

I am not surprised at the story of Staffordshire only bitterly saddened. This must never happen elsewhere and individual heads should roll - but I don't suppose they'll be the heads of the major culprits.

As I have been told not to tell my story publicly I will sign myself as."

■ In response to this letter, Trish Jay, Director of Nursing, Quality and Performance, for 2gether NHS Foundation Trust said:

"I was most concerned to hear the views of an ex-employee and very much encourage them to contact me personally so I can understand their concerns, their situation and ensure any actions are taken forward," she said.

"Providing high quality services is central to what we do and the health and wellbeing of staff is key to making that happen.

"We offer colleagues on-going support through supervision and training and our occupational health service helps ensure physical and mental wellbeing.

"I am proud of our highly qualified, committed and caring colleagues. They undertake complex assessment and treatment work in sometimes difficult circumstances.

"We celebrate the excellent care we see and encourage colleagues to be aware of and use our whistle blowing policy.

"It is also important that we continue to find ways of hearing any concerns and act upon them."

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  • Openthebox  |  February 27 2013, 9:26PM

    I feel compelled to respond to the account of the nurse at Holly House. I am writing from the perspective of a manager at 2gether. I do not know the nurse in question but his experience is one which I have witnessed all too often in the Trust and I have no doubt that what he says is true. This nurse was completely overloaded with work and asked for assistance by way of training and a manageable workload size, no doubt because he had patient care and safety at the forefront of his mind. As usually happens his needs were ignored - until something went wrong which could not be hidden. Trust culture is always to blame the employee. If you can't cope with constantly changing targets and policies and a huge workload then it's got to be the employee who is failing. The Trust devotes a huge amount of time and energy to blaming and scapegoating. The infamous HR Department will then appear on the scene to process the individual through the disciplinary system. The employee has no choice but to exhaust the internal system before he has a chance of real justice elsewhere. He has to give the Trust a chance to investigate fully and put things right. What effectively happens is that the Trust has free reign to misinterpret and manipulate the truth and will roll in other employees to lie to order. Once processed the employee / ex employee is usually so damaged he is incapable of taking things further. He will be more in need of mental health care than capable of dispensing it. Employees are silenced about their experiences not to protect them but to ensure the Trust can continue to bully and control its staff, suppressing the truth behind its veneer of conscientiously applying Trust policy and procedure. NHS staff do not do the job for the pay. The majority of clinicians regard their work as a vocation and it is a tragedy that this nurse has suffered so badly that he has given up his vocation and his commitment and experience is lost to the Trust through his mistreatment. It's very easy to get promoted if you are happy to kowtow to what the Chief Executive wants and keep your mouth shut. Unsurprisingly I am not likely to be singled out for promotion. Necessity demands I have to keep my job but I would leave this moral sewer tomorrow if I had the opportunity. Morale is at an all time low. The NHS Staff Survey of staff attitudes and wellbeing at the Trust reflects the controlling atmosphere and negativity but it is only the tip of the iceberg. A previous comment made mention of an Executive who was hounded out of the Trust. Everyone knows why. He had a reputation for prioritising service quality and safety and the wellbeing of staff. Clearly this Executive didn't fit in with Trust culture. The culture is dictated by the Chief Executive and the Chief Executive is concerned only with his pay packet and making a name for himself. He's certainly succeeded but not in the way he intended. His complete lack of judgement was revealed in the 'boatgate' affair in the summer and every time he addresses staff its clear he has no idea about mental health. A few stock phrases don't fool an employee with even minimal training. The Chief Executive is so drunk with his own self-importance that he even thinks he can rewrite history. The Executive who was so badly mistreated must never be mentioned. This Executive worked his way up from a clinical role and brought a clinical perspective of staff and services to the table combined with a strategic understanding of how to run and develop services. It's as if he never existed. Instead the Chief Executive considers his mate the Engineer to be much better qualified for the post. Trish Jay's wishy washy comments are just so many empty words. She invites the ex-employee to contact her. I expect the ex-employee had more than enough contact when he was going through the Disciplinary. It might seem an obvious comment but the Trust is meant to be

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  • nhshope2012  |  February 26 2013, 11:00PM

    As a past worker for the NHS, In the Central Booking. I came across Bully Miss management. Bullying was known between other staff and reported to higher management but nothing was ever done. A few months later, a person took her own life. Not saying the two were directly related but it does ask the question. What if something had been done, would she still of taken her own life? Was a very sad time in the Office but still nothing was ever addressed. After this I could not look at these please again so had to leave. Bad management or lack of training in man management?

  • FTPholly  |  February 26 2013, 10:45PM

    I have just finished reading the story from the member of staff so poorly treated by the management of the 2gether Trust, I am appalled that such experienced staff can be left devastated by this behaviour, I am sure that the "spokesperson" for the Trust will try to put some odd spin on this story in an attempt to devalue the essential tragedy that this staff member has experienced. We in Gloucestershire need good staff to care for us and our loved ones, I am sure that not all staff are exceptional, but those that do this work need to be supported and encouraged to bring their experiences to benefit the patients that they care for. The 2gether Trust would seem to be concerned more with the collection of numbers than in the care of patients. nurses care for patients not computers. Having followed recent Citizen articles about the Trust I am aware of some of the issues that they have faced, it is clear that the staff have a difficult and complex job and to do that they deserve good support. Recent events in Mid-staffs N.H.S. have shown that a bullying and negative culture will lead to poor experiences for patients. The senior staff in the Trust have shown that they are concerned with their week-end leisure pursuits to such an a extent that the person concerned was prepared to boast about that on twitter, an activity that we should not be overly concerned about as long as that senior managers judgement can be trusted. I am worried that the most recent information about the N.H.S. has suggested that bullying of staff has been endemic in many areas, I would suggest that the Citizen should give staff both in post and those that have left the opportunity to openly discuss their experiences in a forum that could be safe. I agree with a previous comment that Ms. jay may indeed offer a contact but such contact would prove to be potentially unsafe for any member of staff. This sort of contact in other areas has proved a negative experience for staff taking this course of action- this can be seen by recent experiences of so called "whistle blowers". I have had experience of contact with the staff at Holly House and found them to be exceptional group of professionals. I am personally aware that a senior executive who showed great awareness and compassion for patients and staff was hounded out of the Trust to the detriment of both staff and patient care. This was a recent event and should be investigated. The N.H.S. is an institution that we must encourage and protect to deliver exceptional patient care we can only do that by providing a culture that staff can be supported.

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  • Justica  |  February 26 2013, 5:58PM

    In GRH I had a particular bad experience when my mother was left in a corridor for hours awaiting a bed and subsequent care many years ago. But equally, a positive experience when having a hysterectomy at the Orchard Centre because of cancer myself. What I have found from a relative working for management, is that they are constantly re-organising, redeploying or implementing changes constantly. In fact it WAS solely their job. There are plenty of people shuffling paper - but what we really need is someone to give a drink, help feed, give bedpans, just basically care.

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  • HarryInLydney  |  February 26 2013, 3:47PM

    gomums - have you seen the salaries drawn by Consultants and GPs? Have you ever heard a Consultant complain about their salary?! When the cuts came a couple of years ago a friend of mine (whose husband is a consultant) said things were really bad - they might have to get rid of their eldest son's second horse! Thats the rarified financial atmosphere of the majority of medical staff and it costs us a fortune. Read up on Labour's 'Agenda for Change' to see how much the NHS soaked up and what we, the people who paid for it, got.

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  • HarryInLydney  |  February 26 2013, 3:43PM

    I had the misfortune to have to take my elderly father (who'd fallen out of the loft and couldnt move one of his legs) to Glos A&E. The nurses were abysmal, and both sat in the corner loudly reading an IKEA catalogue. The Dr accused my father of wasting time and to go home with a paracetamol. When we left one of the nurses was snogging her boyfriend in a corridor off to the side of A&E. Very professional. I had to hobble my Dad to the front door (no help or wheelchair) as he couldnt put any weight on his leg. It was quiet (3am at this point) so I bought my car to the door and out of no-where came a jobsworth telling me off for blocking the access as there might have been a major road incident and many ambulances might turn up. Glos hospital is run as a private fiefdom that doesnt really like patients. Next time we'll take our chances in Bristol. Some staff care - others do not. The problem is it is a 'Job for Life', no-one gets sacked, and people are grateful for any care they get and don't like to complain and say the truth - it could be a lot better and we deserve more for our money. If you're not naturally compassionate get out of the caring game. Oh, one more thing. Nurses, teachers, Drs etc all complain about the hours and stress - WHAT DO YOU THINK PRIVATE SECTOR WORKERS DO?!?!?

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  • gomums  |  February 26 2013, 3:35PM

    My heart goes out to these wonderful NHS workers who are unsupported and surpessed whilst trying to do a very difficult job under atrocious conditions. This scapegoating, gagging culture needs to stop both in the NHS and within our Local Authorities here in Gloucester. Lots of money is being wasted in paying for people to keep their mouths shut often ruining their careers by forcing them out of a career they have dedicated their lives to. More of these stories need to be published by the media and top officials need to be named and shamed especially where there is substancial evidence. These people are drawing phenominal salaries... for what??

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  • Forestboy1961  |  February 26 2013, 11:06AM

    Have I just been reading my own life story? Having also retired early from the NHS in similar circumstances eight years ago, all I can say is I agree with everything above. The response from Trish Jay is standard management speak. I feel if the former nurse in question were to contact Ms. Jay, as invited, she would be subject to underlying ridicule with a threat of possible legal action. As stated by the former nurse, the problem stems from the introduction of graduate-nurse training in 1990 (Project 2000). Precious little time is spent on the wards by learners and they are not subject to the discipline we had to endure (which was not a bad thing). In my experience, I have come across a third-year student nurse who, when I asked her if she could draw up and administer an intra-muscular injection, informed me that she had never performed the task before! At the time, I hung my head in despair as I remembered giving my first IMI in my very first week on my first ward at Horton Road Hospital. I would like to reassure the former nurse that he/she is not alone. Across the country there are thousands of us, the 'Old School', who have been through exactly the same scenario and are now in jobs we never thought we'd be doing, having entered a "Job for Life"!

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