Supporting Suspendees

Giving support to someone who is suspended.

amily members and friends

You may feel very angry for the person you love and care about. You will hate to see them suffering distress and shock and powerlessness and it will make you feel very powerless.

Very often the people who are suspended are very hard-working and known for their integrity.

The injustice of what has happened will make you feel particularly angry and you may experience very strong feelings of hate towards their managers.

You may want to write to all sorts of people to put the organisation right, including the press.

Showing you care

  • Showing you care by your words and actions will be enormously comforting. Hugs have healing power.
  • Believing in your family member/friend will be very important to them because they are struggling with believing in themselves.
  • It will be vital that you work with them to agree actions such as letters. You have greater freedom than they do but they have to go back to their place of work if they are to clear their name.
  • You will be a great help to them when they have to consider their response to documents from their organisation.
  • Keeping well yourselves to keep a clear mind will be very important at this time although it will be hard for you.
  • A lot of the ill-effects of suspension will be experienced by you too.

Work colleagues


The suspended person is not allowed to contact you at work and will not want to bother you at home even if they have your number.

You are allowed to contact them when you are not at work and it will be an enormous encouragement.

You may feel shocked and sad for your colleague but may also feel very uncomfortable.

What will you say? What can you say? That you are willing to try is very important to your colleague.

Possible ways of supporting your colleague

  • Keeping in touch is very beneficial for the person’s sense of self-worth. That you have made the effort, is of inestimable help. I do not exaggerate. It is so easy to forget people as your own life rushes along at its usual busy and meaningful rate.
  • Visit if you can. Just popping in as you are passing or arranging to meet for lunch somewhere, will be very encouraging. A few flowers or a small plant will stay with your colleague as a visible reminder of your care and concern.
  • Give them a ring or send the occasional greetings card. Let them know they are missed.
  • When you visit, listen to them, listening for the feelings as much as the details about the investigation or reports or disciplinary hearing or whatever, which in any case may sound very complicated.
  • To check if you are hearing the feelings right, you might like to sound them out in the form of a statement such as ‘this must be making you feel….(try any of the feelings from the page ‘The effects of suspension’).
  • Being listened to helps the person to get in touch with their feelings, which are probably all over the place. It also helps boost their sense of self-worth that you are making the effort for them.

Other action

If appropriate, consider the implications of what has happened for your own practice and protection at work.

Do you need to have a meeting with your union to discuss if any actions need to be taken such as a meeting with management to discuss the wider issues?

Things not to say

It is so hard to know what to say. We want the person to be alright. We want to cheer them up. As is so often the case, that is hard to do! Here are a few ‘things not to say’.

Keep your chin up! (Up where?)

It’s all good character building stuff! (But there’s no smoke without fire. Our character or reputation has taken a massive knock! And suspension is so shocking it can also destroy!)

Enjoy the rest. Make the most of it! (If it was that easy how good it would be!)A husband’s feelings about his wife’s suspension Hello Julie, I am husband of ……… and know that in her communications to you she has mentioned the anger I feel at the shoddy way she is being treated and the cruel charade that is being played out by the NHS in the name of justice. This travesty is indeed grotesque and one which ignores the individual’s rights (in law), their sense of justice and decency,  their mental anguish during long periods of suspension, their enforced isolation from work colleagues who are friends, the loss of structure in their day to day routine which up to now was greatly shaped by their  work – the job which has been such an important influence on all aspects of their lives. A job into which they have poured so much of themselves; these are caring people and they have chosen this work because they care deeply.

What a shocking way to treat such essential and important people.  Those who speak out are punished – pour encourager les autres – and so the others in fear of their jobs stay silent. The population at large can have no idea that such injustice is systemic in their much-loved ideal of the NHS and I for  one would enjoy pointing out to them that the emperor’s fine clothes have indeed been spun but not by silkworms!

If my wife is dismissed from her job/career of many unblemished years and only has recourse to legal help for the appeal stage it’s probably too late and their dismissal of her will smack of fait accompli. Mission accomplished team, troublemaker silenced. Oh yes the NHS is not perfect but the management have been given the power to make sure that the Great British Public never see just how awfully imperfect it really is. 

It appears to me that this power is an essential concomitant of their(management) remit to do whatever is necessary to keep the illusion of a highly-organised NHS striving to attain its targets, alive. A patient-centred ‘industry’ where you are in safe hands and any shortcomings can be aired in the public domain with transparent honesty and fairness. A sad illusion indeed and one whose perpetuation exacts a shocking cost from its conscientious workers.

I shall be writing to our SMP soon and wonder how much Amnesty International is aware of the totalitarian tendency in the NHS. I am fully aware that this will be a long struggle and that my wife may not benefit in her career from any results achieved but if the effort helps other poor souls downstream then it will be worth while. The destructiveness of a long suspension cannot be understated; it is time out of joint, limboland, a stealthy form of sensory deprivation. Essentially, you are smeared with a guilty tag, bound, gagged and left to prove your innocence as best you can. Dreadfully sad!

What is going on here is a negation of all civilised practices  won at high cost over many years. I admire the time, effort and honest passion that you are putting in to help fight this ‘ritual abuse’, but above all I admire very much the simple fact that you are reacting at all.