The effects of suspension in the NHS

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A letter from an anonymous suspended employee

If it is neutral, then why is the experience of suspension so devastating?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘suspend’ as

‘keep in undecided or inoperative state for a time,         

debar temporarily from office or function or privilege or membership’.

Exclusion, being out of control, losing one’s role within the organisation all help to explain why the experience is bound to be so detrimental. This in turn may have a serious impact on our health. 

Possible effects on health:

Loss of sleep. The mind becomes very active, looking at what has happened in every possible way. It may be difficult to get off to sleep or, during the later and longer dream phases of sleep in the early hours of the morning, the thoughts may cause the person to wake up.

Going round in thought circles, or working out the next stages of defence, is exhausting.

Loss of sleep starts to have the usual accumulative effect. For example, it is more difficult to remember things or concentrate.  Energy levels are reduced. It is hard to get motivated. Things require more effort to get them done. The immune system may be compromised so there is more risk of developing an infection.

Digestive system. The gut may be very sensitive to the feelings of nervousness and loss. So irritable bowel syndrome may be caused or activated with all the problems associated with it.

There may be weight loss because of reduced appetite, or weight gain due to comfort eating as a way of coping with the distress. Again these may affect the immune system and make the person more susceptible to viral and bacterial infection. 

Headache. It is hard not to allow the tension of the situation to become physical. This in turn can give rise to tension headaches which further undermine the person’s ability to think and function effectively at a time when such skills are urgently required to deal with allegations and investigations. 

Raised stress levels. These can have an impact on every system in the body and mind. Worrying about the situation may cause the breathing to become shallow . Hyperventilation (rapid, shallow breathing) may have the very frightening effect of palpitations and dizziness.

Mental health. Inevitably, with all these possible physical symptoms, having a sense of well-being and being able to cope, may be totally absent or greatly reduced. Depression may follow and make the whole experience even more difficult and unbearable. 

Feelings that might be experienced.

Hopefully you will not feel these all at once. If you did you could not possibly survive!

Some of the feelings are contradictory too like feeling insulted at the questioning of your ability or judgment yet doubt that you will be able to do the work again.

 On the wider front

This long list may seem unbelievable if you have never been suspended. Before I experienced it I think I would have thought this was an exaggeration. Now I can honestly say it is not and if you have been suspended and have other feelings, please let me know so I can add them to the list.

Keeping it in perspective

It is absolutely essential to keep all this in perspective. It is a terrible experience but there really are worse things happening to others. It may make you angry that I suggest some to you but when you have had time to cool down you may appreciate what I am saying! If you don’t, then email me and tell me!

Permanent loss of health, especially inoperable cancer is a terrible blow.  Living in a war zone (it may feel like that at times!) or in an area of terrible poverty must be very hard to live with. You can think of many other disasters. We have so much to be thankful for.

See the ‘Coping with suspension’ page for ideas on how to survive.


A letter from an anonymous suspended employee 

We have received a letter from an anonymous suspended employee summing up their feelings in respect of the whole process.

Dear Julie,

I am still very angry about my suspension and was so pleased to find your letter on the internet.  Well done, you have survived and most surprisingly so have I.  I hope that maybe my story can help to stop this completely unjust practice.

I was suspended early this year, it was a complete shock.  Suddenly I was not allowed to work, not allowed to speak to any of my work colleagues and not allowed to speak to my many colleague friends or even set foot on hospital grounds.  I had had a very busy work life, now there was nothing - as you can imagine, I collapsed, I couldn’t eat, couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t talk to my family, it was absolutely awful. I even thought of suicide I felt so bad.

All this because a member of staff had made allegations of harassment against me of which I was not guilty. I really feel strongly that suspension should only be used in the most extreme of instances.

Ten months later, after advice from my Union rep and because I felt I could no longer fight against the injustice of it all I have accepted a job within the main hospital. (I was a manager/nurse practitioner.)  But now I wish I had carried on fighting as I feel I have lost my self respect.  It’s often said that there is no smoke without fire and I now wonder what people think of me all the time. Plus I feel drained, I now hate the NHS and all it stands for, I certainly don’t feel as if I can nurse much longer and am looking for ways of leaving the nursing profession altogether.  My enthusiasm and dedication have been drained.

I have had my life turned upside down and my career halted.  Allegations like this assume you are guilty not innocent, plus it wastes enormous amounts of money that would be better spent on the patients.  With out the support of my family and my GP I might no longer be here and continually thank them. 

I feel very alone, angry and abused by the system.

With regards


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