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CAUSE (UK)

Campaign Against Unnecessary Suspensions & Exclusions in the NHS

Web site:www.suspension-nhs.org

E-mail:enquiries@suspension-nhs.org


Campaign Co-ordinators: Julie Fagan, Craig Longstaff, Andre Downer,
Elsie Gayle (midwifery spokesperson),
Dave Williams (Welsh spokesperson) and
Kate Wynn (Scottish spokesperson)
wynnkj@btinternet.com


CAUSE in Scotland

Updated May 2009.


If you or someone close to you has been unfairly suspended from any NHS Scotland post and you have not previously contacted me, I would like to hear from you. Please contact me at: - wynnkj@btinternet.com


How can I help if you have been suspended?

Firstly and perhaps most importantly, I know from bitter experience that just having contact with someone else who has experienced suspension can be a huge support, and so I am more than happy to be a point of e-mail contact myself for others who want that. At times in the past I have also put some people in touch with others who wanted to offer e-mail support or to form a group for support.

As the spokesperson for CAUSE in Scotland, I do not need to be anonymous as many people understandably do, so sometimes I may be able to act as a go-between and pass on information as well as speaking to the press when the occasion arises.

The more people we know about who are unfairly suspended the better, in order for the campaign to succeed. One of the difficulties in getting any attention paid to the campaign is that the whole problem is largely invisible. Therefore I’d be grateful to people who just let me know that they are another one among the number of inappropriately suspended NHS staff.

For anyone who wants to help with the campaign, I may also be able to make suggestions about that, but mostly I can make suggestions for ideas that might help you with your own case - just ask, but please see also the other pages on this website as Julie Fagan has already put a wealth of information on there.

The first thing I would suggest to anyone in Scotland who has been unfairly suspended is to contact an MSP. If you don’t already know, you have the right to make contact with any one – or more than one – of your 8 regional MSPs. As well as this raising general awareness of the subject among MSPs, they can often give help with individual cases. They are bound by a code of confidentiality unless you give them permission to take matters to anyone else. From experience I would suggest that face-to-face contact has the biggest impact on the MSP but you can also contact them by various other means. You can find out who your regional MSPs are and their contact details at: -

The Scottish Parliament - Current Members

Because the NHS in Scotland is a devolved matter and is managed entirely within Scotland, MSPs are most likely to be able to help. However as the suspension problem is UK-wide there could be benefit from contacting your Westminster MP also – it certainly can do no harm.

Many of those who have not had the strength or the will to join the campaign in an active manner have been very strong in arguing their own cases with their Health Boards and improving their own outcomes, which is another way of taking positive action. Everyone who has contacted me has spurred me on to remain involved, so to all those people THANKYOU for your help and support – I could not have achieved the small successes to date without you, but I wish with all my heart that you weren’t out there needlessly suffering too.


My own suspension story

“My name is Kate Wynn and I am a highly qualified Registered Nurse. Until September 2004 I had a successful and unblemished 29-year NHS career and was in a senior clinical position, directly managing around 50 people when I was suddenly suspended and accused of bullying and harassing staff - but I was not told what the allegations were. I was told my immediate manager didn’t think the allegations very serious but that according to policy he would have to suspend me, unless I took sick leave – and I was asked to choose between the two. I was not sick.

My suspension was splashed across the front page of one of two local newspapers and reported in the other together with details of my job and where I live.

It was an incredible three months before I was interviewed, having received the allegations in writing just four days before that interview. Following an investigation, and after nearly 16 weeks of exclusion from work, I was told that there was no requirement for a disciplinary hearing and my suspension was duly ‘lifted’.

Ironically, this only meant that I was put on enforced ‘special leave’ – still at full pay – which continued for a further 20 weeks until I was finally allowed back to work after more than eight months. Restrictions placed on me during ‘special leave’ were even more isolating than during the first sixteen weeks, and by the eighth month I felt returning to my previous post had become untenable and I was found a new post within the organisation.
My employers have refused to apologise for suspending me despite conceding that an alternative to suspension could have been pursued.

Because of the embarrassing publicity given to my suspension, I also asked my employers to issue a public statement giving the facts: i.e. that there was no evidence to substantiate any allegation made against me and therefore no misconduct, but they have refused to do this too.”

[Extracted from “TIME TO END UNNECESSARY NHS SUSPENSIONS IN SCOTLAND” (Appendix 1)]
**********

Immediately below is an update to my personal story: -

Within the last year I have been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). I believe it is likely, though I can’t prove it, that I have developed this disease at least partly as a result of my previous suspension from my job in the NHS.
I’ve read of many others with this condition who have described receiving their diagnosis as “devastating”. I think I have some insight into why some people might feel that way although for me it was a worry and a disappointment, but not devastating. I would use that word for some events that I’ve experienced in my life, but not for being diagnosed with a debilitating, non-fatal long-term condition – not devastating that is, compared to my previous experience of suspension from work.
The disease from which I’m suffering may shorten my life expectancy to some extent and it may cause me severe disability in the future. It has already prevented me from doing some things that I wanted to do. It causes me daily pain and discomfort, as well as frequent frustration and occasional tearfulness, and my future is more uncertain than it was before. But RA is something that I can understand, at least up to a point. I can find out about what doctors know about the condition, about what I might expect to happen to me and about ways of dealing with it. I can deal with it.
RA does not threaten my self-esteem, my sense of self worth or my very reason for being. It does not stop me from eating and it doesn’t often stop me from sleeping.
Suspension did do all of that to me, and for a very much longer time than the actual suspension lasted. Every so often something happens to remind me that I still bear the scars of suspension even now, and I know that they will never fade completely.

However, despite all that I am a survivor of suspension, and I still work in the NHS as a nurse in clinical practice. I no longer enjoy working for the NHS or feel proud to do so, but I do continue to enjoy what I was trained to do and have been doing for 34 years now - nursing. I am one of the ‘lucky’ ones!

**********


The Campaign in Scotland

The Scottish arm of the campaign was launched on 13th April 2006, with the document entitled “TIME TO END UNNECESSARY NHS SUSPENSIONS IN SCOTLAND” being distributed to a large number of MSPs, Scottish Executive Health Department (SEHD, as it then was) officials, Trades Unions, members of the press and various other bodies.

“My own suspension story” (above) is an extract from that document.

Having found this website during my own suspension, and having received enormous support myself from Julie Fagan and the others who were assisting her in her campaign at the time, I felt it was necessary for CAUSE to be ‘launched’ separately in Scotland and I volunteered for the job! The reason I thought it important is that the Scottish NHS is an entirely separate organisation, but not everyone realises this. Although it shares many similarities with the NHS in other countries of the UK, it also has many differences. It has separate policies and procedures, the employers are no longer Trusts but are now Health Boards, and indeed there are simply too many differences to list. As Health is a devolved matter, in Scotland health policy is now completely under the control of the Scottish Parliament. In addition Scots Law is an entirely different legal system, therefore here we are working within a totally different framework to healthcare staff in England, N. Ireland or Wales.

The ‘launch’ brought some results, most notably in the form of publicity in two local newspapers - the same ones that had originally published the fact that I had been suspended from my NHS job in 2004. As a result of these two extensive, but local - and rather personal - articles in 2006 several additional people made contact with me because they had suffered in similar ways. A few MSPs and a few other journalists also made contact with me over the following months and the campaign was successful in gaining some publicity around Scotland. Most of the articles published were not available electronically, but is still possible to see 2 the most major successes at the links below. Extensive discussions with a reporter from ‘The Scotsman’ unfortunately have not resulted in publication to date.


Mirror.co.uk - News - EXCLUSIVE: 500 DOCS & NURSES OFF ON FULL PAY
BBC NEWS | Scotland | 'Too many' NHS staff suspensions. The BBC reports in January 2007 came about as a result of a second document that I had produced months earlier and circulated to the media entitled “NHS SCOTLAND IS NOT CARING FOR ITS OWN STAFF” (Appendix 2).

During 2006 and all of 2007, I continued to take every opportunity I could (within the limited time available to me) to undertake campaigning activities, but unfortunately due to unforeseen reasons as described above, I found I needed to further reduce this activity more than a year ago now. However, the campaign is still alive and kicking in the rest of the UK, and I continue to provide input to the other campaigners regarding the Scottish perspective. If anyone is interested in helping with the campaign in Scotland, please contact me about that too.

I continue to welcome e-mails from people who have been affected by suspension from NHS Scotland jobs and will try my best to answer anyone who e-mails me, within a few days if possible.
wynnkj@btinternet.com


Appendix 1.

TIME TO END UNNECESSARY NHS SUSPENSIONS IN SCOTLAND

In England the Department of Health has introduced Directions, which apply to NHS doctors and dentists, in order to ensure that suspensions or exclusions of staff are used only as a last resort and usually only when there is a question of patient safety. Other NHS staff south of the border are campaigning to have similar procedures put in place. (see www.suspension-nhs.org)
Clearly there are occasions when suspension is the only safe and responsible option open to managers, but inappropriate and unnecessary suspension in the NHS costs the taxpayers while removing front line health workers from patient care. Even more importantly it is a devastating experience for those subjected to the process – often likened to bereavement – it is damaging the health of valuable, highly-trained staff that are frequently lost to the NHS and the taxpayer as a result of the experience.

Unfortunately in Scotland this problem is not even recognised.

During parliamentary questions in January 2005 Scottish Health Minister Andy Kerr said that the Scottish Executive did not collect figures on how many NHS clinical staff are excluded from work or have restrictions placed on their activities. Nor did they hold information on the additional costs of providing cover for excluded staff; including salary costs, management time, and legal expenses and it seems unlikely that the situation has changed. At the same time Mr Kerr stated that: ‘NHS staff may be suspended or excluded from their duties if their personal or professional conduct or competence has raised concern for the safety and interests of patients and other staff.’

What the Minister meant by the ‘interests of……..other staff’ is not clear, but from my own and others’ NHS experiences, this not infrequently includes a knee-jerk response when a member of staff brings any sort of disagreement, grievance or grudge against a colleague (whether justified or not) to senior management. The response of senior managers, it seems, is too often to suspend first and ask questions later!

I am only one of a large but unknown number. Unfortunately, many others have strikingly similar stories to tell but I hope that my story will illustrate the point:

My name is Kate Wynn and I am a highly qualified Registered Nurse. Until September 2004 I had a successful and unblemished 29-year NHS career and was in a senior clinical position, directly managing around 50 people when I was suddenly suspended and accused of bullying and harassing staff - but I was not told what the allegations were. I was told my immediate manager didn’t think the allegations very serious but that according to policy he would have to suspend me, unless I took sick leave – and I was asked to choose between the two. I was not sick.
My suspension was splashed across the front page of one of two local newspapers and reported in the other together with details of my job and where I live.
It was an incredible three months before I was interviewed, having received the allegations in writing just four days before that interview. Following an investigation, and after nearly 16 weeks of exclusion from work, I was told that there was no requirement for a disciplinary hearing and my suspension was duly ‘lifted’.
Ironically, this only meant that I was put on enforced ‘special leave’ – still at full pay – which continued for a further 20 weeks until I was finally allowed back to work after more than eight months. Restrictions placed on me during ‘special leave’ were even more isolating than during the first sixteen weeks, and by the eighth month I felt returning to my previous post had become untenable and I was found a new post within the organisation.
My employers have refused to apologise for suspending me despite conceding that an alternative to suspension could have been pursued.
Because of the embarrassing publicity given to my suspension, I also asked my employers to issue a public statement giving the facts: i.e. that there was no evidence to substantiate any allegation made against me and therefore no misconduct, but they have refused to do this too.
My family and friends were appalled by these events, which have taken their toll on my health as well as significantly affecting others around me. Friends, who also work for the NHS, now feel differently about their employment as a result of my experience.
Frankly, I only continue in NHS employment because of my pension benefits. If I were considerably younger I would almost certainly have left by now and I will probably retire earlier than I would have done otherwise – thereby depleting an experienced, but already stretched workforce, by yet one more.

It is important that my story and the experiences of a significant number of other health workers are heard and changes must be made to the current suspension culture. Health Service Managers need to learn how to deal with staff issues appropriately and confidently without resorting routinely to the draconian and unproductive option of suspension.

The current NHS Scotland recruitment campaign is unlikely to have a lasting effect on staffing or to benefit the health care of the public if the service’s senior managers are fundamentally unable to use much more effective and already existing measures to resolve their staffing difficulties.

13th April 2006.

Appendix 2.

NHS SCOTLAND IS NOT CARING FOR ITS OWN STAFF
Suspension policies in NHS Scotland are not working, says Kate Wynn the Scottish spokesperson for CAUSE (UK) – Campaign Against Unnecessary Suspensions and Exclusions in the NHS. She states that while the ‘Partnership Information Network’ (PIN) Policies recognise that suspension of staff should not be undertaken lightly, often the Policy is not followed. She also does not think that the policy even comes near to recognising the detrimental effects caused to an individual - and to those close to them - by a suspension which is carried out inappropriately and unnecessarily.
Although the Policy does state that "the use of suspension is not part of the disciplinary procedure", that is not how it feels to the suspended person; that person is deprived of their self-esteem and of the right to make their contribution to society. The NHS work culture dictates too that colleagues will believe that someone who is suspended must be guilty of something and therefore in reality suspension is a disciplinary sanction, often imposed where no disciplinary sanction is warranted.
Suspension is being used regularly and far more frequently than it should be by some managers and, in other words, not in accordance with the Policy. Suspension of staff members prior to an investigation even being carried out into allegations - which may be false - is not an infrequent occurrence. Clearly of course there are occasions when immediate suspension is the only safe and responsible option open to managers but these occasions are rare, and unnecessary suspensions could be avoided if the policies were actually being followed.
In England the Department of Health has introduced Directions in order to ensure that NHS doctors and dentists are suspended or excluded only as a last resort, and usually only when there is a question of patient safety. We should have a similar system in Scotland but it should apply to all NHS staff including doctors, dentists and all other clinical as well as non-clinical staff.
Why is it that NHS Scotland (and indeed the NHS UK-wide) cannot admit that, because they are organisations of human beings, they inevitably make mistakes - as we all do? Why is it that they refuse to apologise when mistakes have been made and that they do not make some realistic attempts to put things right? There is a lot of talk about a no-blame culture but it is a long way from the reality. There is a serious systems failure regarding the use of suspension/exclusion of staff in the NHS and this failure needs to be addressed.
15th August 2006.


For further information contact: wynnkj@btinternet.com


CAUSE (UK)
Campaign Against Unnecessary Suspensions and Exclusions in the NHS (UK)
Web site:www.suspension-nhs.org E-mail:enquiries@suspension-nhs.org
Campaign Co-ordinators: Julie Fagan, Craig Longstaff, Andre Downer,
Elsie Gayle (midwifery spokesperson),
Dave Williams (Welsh spokesperson) and
Kate Wynn (Scottish spokesperson)

Disclaimer
CAUSE (UK) provides its services and resources on an informal basis only. Members of CAUSE (UK) providing services and resources have no formal legal training or qualifications. Except for publicly available official publications, material and correspondence, the information provided by or on behalf of CAUSE (UK) is based on individuals’ experience(s), recognising that every situation and circumstance is unique and thus needs to be judged on its own merit(s). You are advised to seek independent advice from a qualified and registered professional before taking any formal action. CAUSE (UK) will not be held responsible for any consequence resulting from ignoring this disclaimer.