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Trust faces protest over claims that nurse's career was 'ruined'

The husband of a nurse has claimed his wife’s career was “ruined” by unfounded allegations and “bullying”, which led her to give up her job at Worcestershire Health and Social Care Trust.

Nigel Gilbert was among a group of friends and family who took part in a demonstration at the trust’s headquarters on 22 July, as part of an ongoing campaign to restore the reputation of retired community psychiatric nurse Ingra Kirkland.

The group, which calls itself Betrayed By Her Trust, has been campaigning for more than two years after Ms Kirkland left the organisation under a cloud in December 2011. She had been employed by the trust for about 20 years when she was accused of being involved in record-keeping anomalies and moved from her post to a job on a ward.

“We just want our specific allegations looked into. It’s an issue of accountability”

Nigel Gilbert

However, her supporters claim the former Unison steward did little more than warn a fellow nurse she had forgotten to record an injection and advise her colleague to correct the omission.

Ms Kirkland underwent an internal investigation and was due to appear at a disciplinary hearing when she decided to accept a retirement deal, because she was scared of being sacked and losing her pension, according to Mr Gilbert.

The deal included a compromise agreement, which means Ms Kirkland – who is not involved in the campaign – feels unable to speak to the media for fear of legal action.

The group is calling for an inquiry into the way Ms Kirkland was treated and has made a series of allegations, which the protestors spelt out on placards at last month’s demonstration.

“We’re not looking to have people hung, drawn and quartered or anything. We just want our specific allegations looked into. It’s an issue of accountability,” said Mr Gilbert who said the campaigners were also seeking an apology from the trust.

He said the couple’s lives had been “blighted” by the situation. “We think about this most days,” he said. “Ingra’s self-respect and confidence has been very damaged. I say to her she’s got nothing to be ashamed about, but she feels humiliated and cheapened.”

The trust told Nursing Times the case was a confidential matter and it could not respond in detail.

“The circumstances that relate to this involve a confidential HR matter regarding a former employee of the trust,” the trust said in a statement. “As such it would not be appropriate for the trust to provide any further comment.”

The Betrayed By Her Trust group has already staged a number of demonstrations and set up a campaign website. Another protest is planned towards the end of August.

Readers' comments (31)

  • michael stone

    'However, her supporters claim the former Unison steward did little more than warn a fellow nurse she had forgotten to record an injection and advise her colleague to correct the omission.'

    I'm trying to be balanced here: everyone makes some mistakes - to my mind, one sin is claim that mistakes are never made at all.

    So to my mind, that missing noted injection is a mistake: the record should be corrected immediately; but the correction must 'admit it is a late entry' (in other words, the added note must say 'this is recorded at time T+X to point out that there was an injection at time T'.

    Unless someone persistently fails to complete notes correctly, I don't see this as anything more than 'one of those things that happen' - but 'management' might take a different view (which is why, you get this type of 'covering up' and the problems which then arise).

    Trying to alter notes to cover something up, is an entirley different issue !

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  • Whenever there is a scapegoat, there is usually a hidden agenda. What is the organisation hiding?

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  • 20 years unblemished record must count for something? It sounds as if management might have leaned a bit heavily here and there may well be a cover up going on.Should be an investigation to clear everything up.
    After all-what have they got to hide I wonder?

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  • How very sad that this should happen; at worst a development plan is what was required, even then that's a bit of a sledge hammer for a carpet tack approach! I am very sorry that a career should end like this. Best of luck I do so hope the campaign is successful

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  • I am a nurse also the sister of someone who suffers with severe mental health issues. I noticed a lot of inaccuracies in the care plan review of my sister that had been part written by a senior nurse. I raised my concerns. The approach by the Trust was to attack me, cause problems with the relationship with my sister and sorry to say it but lie. It has turned into a 2 year nightmare. I really don't know where to turn but I am hugely concerned for the physical and mental well being of my sister and the Trust just don't care.

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  • Good on this husband and friends for speaking out. I completely understand their need to speak out, as there doesn't appear to be any real opportunity for a right to reply for nurses in this type of situation.

    We are in a similar situation, with my partner at a loss to rationalise the way we nurses are governed, particularly after sitting through my NMC panel hearing recently, more a forgone conclusion than a hearing.

    Keep up the pressure guys, we need to be heard!!

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  • SOP for many NHS trusts...

    Let me see...A union rep...How many times might a union rep have challenged management?

    Hands up all those with a history of justifiably challenging managers whose jobs "disappeared" in " re-structurings"? Certainly happened to me: I waited out my last year before retirement in fear of some trumped up rubbish like that in this piece.

    See, for example, what can happen to union reps like Yunus Bakhsh.

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  • This poor person’s experience has been replicated hundreds of times, rather thousands of times I would guess, throughout the UK BECAUSE no one knows what trusts are up to. The managers are completely UNACCOUNTABLE. And if I sound angry it is because I have been hearing of these sorts of situations for the last 12 years through our website . And the person describing her experiences at the hands of the NMC just compounds what many others have found, that there is no truth or justice there either. Staff have nowhere to turn.
    So THANK YOU Nursing Times for running this story. THANK YOU husband, family and friends for continuing your brave campaign. I wish you well but am not hopeful of truth prevailing. The NHS is one place where that truism doesn’t hold any water.
    Julie Fagan, founder member of CAUSE – Campaign Against Unnecessary Suspensions and Exclusions UK

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  • I, too, have seen appalling management practice and acceptance of management deceit and bullying by trust officials. Suspension is used as a weapon and confidentiality and threats used to silence dissent. Good luck to this nurse....and to the many others suffering similar maltreatment. If enough of us publicise these cases, and support organisations like CAUSE, then we will make positive changes

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  • I would like to comment on the nurse who is supporting his/her sister who has severe mental health issues I noticed a lot of inaccuracies in the care plan review of my brother and was faced with the same negative behaviour from the trust, how sad is it that some trusts do not want to make positive changes to the way we practice. I for one welcome any feed back in my place of work from both my peers, patients/relatives and management. How else can we learn and improve in our practice. The blame culture is still around in some places unfortunately. I wish both the nurse who is caring for there loved one and the nurse who has been punished for all her long and hard work over the years all the very best for now and the future.

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  • Steve Turner

    'Whenever there is a scapegoat, there is usually a hidden agenda. What is the organisation hiding?'
    ...So true and sadly still commonplace...

    If your experiences are similar have a look to see if your employers has signed up the the Nursing Times Speak Out Safely Campaign and link with the the Francis review of whistleblowing:
    @SpeakUpReview #NHSspeakout

    Now's the time to speak out if you can. (Its' still not safe for many).

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  • It is possible that there is an ambiguity in the article which Mr Stone in particular might have misunderstood. It was her colleague who omitted to record the injection. The tragedy of this affair is that it is nothing to do with Ingra's work at all. Her misfortune was simply to notice that her colleague had made this omission.

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  • Thanks to Steve Turner for posting a link to the Francis review - I am still waiting for the DoH to get back to me with contact details...

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  • Hang on a minute here - if you read the article it clearly states that there was an internal investigation and BEFORE the disciplinary hearing, the Ms Kirkland decided to retire.

    I suspect that Ms Kirkland was removed from her post during the investigation which is correct procedure if you don't want the investigation to be discussed etc amongst those who were involved.

    If Ms Kirkland had awaited the outcome of the hearing - she may have been cleared of any wrongdoing and could have gone back to her original post

    My greatest concern here is that following perceived record keeping anomalies, it was considered right to remove her from her CPN role and put her on a ward if record keeping is any less important in one place than another.

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  • michael stone

    Nigel Gilbert | 7-Aug-2014 9:45 am

    Nigel, I grasped that it was her colleague who didn't record the injection.

    What isn't clear to me, is what happened next.

    If she told the colleague 'to correct the error, by adding to the notes a comment that the injection had been given but wasn't noted at the time', then she isn't culpable of anything.

    But if she was part of an attempt to 'record the injection, but to cover up the fact that the injection had originally not been noted', then she is culpable: that destroys the overall integrity of the records.

    However, I am very aware, that many nurses are terrified of 'admitting to any mistake, full stop'.

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  • There is much more to come in this story. In answer to anonymous above, it should be made clear that we are not asking for an inquiry into any allegations against Ingra - because as you say there was an investigation. We are asking for an inquiry into allegations of misconduct by senior staff in the way it was handled, including serious breaches of procedure. Further to Michael Stone's second contribution, this is an extremely complex story and there is much to come. Suffice it to say here that all Ingra did was to draw her colleague's attention to the omission. It was entirely the business of her colleague, a fellow professional nurse of equal grade, to make good the record in the appropriate way. She did this on her own without Ingra present and as far as we know was always willing to take responsibility. No blame is attached to her for implicating Ingra. Instead, other senior staff sought determinedly to implicate Ingra. Their murky motives are partly what warrants inquiry.

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  • There must be more to this than meets the eye. No nurse can be disciplined simply for asking another nurse to correct her omission. I don't understand why she would be so concerned about losing her pension if that was her only "crime". As someone else has pointed out the Trust were happy to keep her on - albeit in a different role.
    Also, I wonder why if the nurse signed a compromise agreement with the Trust then she can't just draw a line under the matter and move on with her life - life's too short isn't it!

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  • As a Trade Union rep (not NHS) I recognise the signs of someone who has done nothing wrong suddenly finding herself being disciplined for no apparent reason. It looks and feels very different if you are on the receiving end of unfair and abusive treatment by powerful people.

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  • Anonymous | 7-Aug-2014 6:10 pm

    At the risk of sounding cynical and/or of indulging in conspiracy theories, if a trust's managers have taken against someone then, yes, something that simple CAN be used.

    I had a colleague (a consultant psychiatrist) who was disciplined for an alleged breach (as in it didn't really happen, but medical management claimed it did) of patient confidentiality following raising child protection concerns. It is, of course, a complete coincidence that this consultant was the most vocal critic of enforced service changes and its attendant staffing issues and the role played in that by more senior medics.

    It does not pay to under estimate the vindictiveness of the management of some trusts.

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  • Sounds like a case of face not fitting I'm afraid. Certainly exists, no matter if one has a 'union representative'. Some of those tend to be rather friendly with very senior management...

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