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Support group established to help NHS staff who are being 'bullied and abused'


A campaign group set up to restore the reputation of one nurse has now expanded its remit to support others affected by “bullying and abuse” in the NHS.

The Betrayed By Her Trust group was formed by the friends and family former of former mental health nurse Ingra Kirkland who claim her life was “ruined” by unfounded allegations and “bullying” that led to her leaving her job at Worcestershire Health and Social Care Trust.

Led by Ms Kirkland’s husband Nigel Gilbert, the group has been fighting to clear her name for more than two years.

Mr Gilbert told Nursing Times the campaigners had now decided to form a new organisation after hearing about other cases “of nurses ruined by the abuse and bullying of managers or other senior staff”.

The wider group – called Betrayed By Their Trust – is set to launch formally next month [February] but is already looking into five cases involving nursing staff who were employed in the Worcestershire area.

“We want to create an organisation to give mutual support to NHS staff and their families who are victims of abuse and bullying”

Nigel Gilbert

“We want to create an organisation to give mutual support to NHS staff and their families who are victims of abuse and bullying,” said Mr Gilbert.

“We also want to help them to achieve some kind of justice or recognition of what has been done to them.”

The group has been liaising with another campaigning organisation, the Campaign Against Unnecessary Suspensions and Exclusions in the NHS.

Mr Gilbert said such groups were needed to stand up for staff because “nobody else is doing this”.

He claimed health unions were “not on top of this issue of bullying at all”, legal advice was often poor and NHS organisations were only interested in “maintaining the credibility of management”.

“We have found that, despite all the apparent interest in bullying, nobody genuinely looks at our complaints,” he said. “All we get are courteous letters informing us they are reassured all is well.”

In Ms Kirkland’s case, her supporters claim a minor issue around record-keeping anomalies was blown out of proportion turning “a molehill into a mountain”.

Conservative MP for Wyre Forest Mark Garnier has said he would back a fresh, independent inquiry into the way the case was handled.

The call for an inquiry is also backed by two prospective parliamentary candidates due to contest the Wyre Forest seat.

“It looks like this whole process has been flawed and a dedicated nurse has been treated extremely unfairly”

Matt Lamb

One is former hospital physician and co-founder of the National Health Action Party Dr Richard Taylor, who is standing for the Independent Community and Health Concern party.

Meanwhile Labour candidate Matt Lamb told Nursing Times he would be happy to support an independent review because it appeared Ms Kirkland had been treated unfairly.

“It looks like this whole process has been flawed and a dedicated nurse has been treated extremely unfairly,” he said.

Sarah Dugan, chief executive of Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust, said: “We are unable to comment on the specifics relating to the former employee, whose employment with the Trust ended several years ago. However, the Trust refutes any claims of a bullying culture within the organisation. Our recent staff survey, which is anonymous, revealed that the vast majority had never experienced any form of harassment, bullying or discrimination from their manager, team leader or other colleagues. We actively promote ways in which staff can raise any concerns about their service or other aspects of their work and are signed up to the Nursing Times’ Speak out Safely campaign, reaffirming our commitment to openness, honesty and transparency and to creating a culture which encourages staff to highlight any issues they have.”


Readers' comments (8)

  • Dear Sarah Dugan,

    You do know that, if my old trust and neighbouring ones are anything to go by, there is a widespread belief that supposedly anonymous staff surveys are not in fact anonymous? So people will tell you what you what they think you want to hear...

    And that even if "the vast majority" don't in reality experience bullying that doesn't mean that you've eradicated it.

    Even when trusts contract out their staff surveys to outside bodies staff names are clearly linked to the "anonymising" code numbers on forms and we only have the word of someone we've never heard of, let alone met, that trust HR or management never see the numbers attached to particular names. Many people do not believe that these surveys are actually anonymous, which reduces their value and makes it very hard to draw meaningful conclusions from them.

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  • more needs to be done to understand bullying and how to deal with it rather than just treating those who have been on the receiving end as victims. that does not help eradicate it or learn how to deal with it and save careers! there is no place for bullying and it must not be tolerated. those found to be bullying must change their behaviour or leave.

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  • Quite right, "anonymous". Betrayed By Their Trust (BBTT) is campaigning to call to account particular managers responsible for bullying. Sarah Dugan "refutes" allegations against her senior managers, but she does not do anything to deal with those allegations.

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  • The way this article is presented certainly rings true, without knowing anything about the case described. It is more important for managers and HR departments to maintain status quo for the "good" of the organisations concerned, and to cover up for the guilty managers, rather than deal with them.
    I called the helpdesk at my Trust to complain about harassment and discrimination. After discussion, the HR person got back to me the next day to say I was not being harassed. The phrases she used made me convinced she had breached my confidentiality, in order to maintain the integrity of the managers concerned. I was not particularly bothered, and I put the same complaints (and more) on my exit questionnaire (yes, I was forced to leave).
    The managers think I have gone quietly, but they are not sure of this. The unions are not particularly helpful either because they are out of their depth.

    So good luck to any initiatives to take on the might of the bureaucracies.
    (I am staying anon on this one!)

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  • Unfounded allegations and subsequent bullying and harrassment are rife at HACW not just the Alex hospital.
    The same soundbites and platitudes are given by the Trust to try and dispel these allegations rather than EXTERNALLY investigate things properly and fairly. How can internal investigations be impartial?
    The trust never seem to be on the side of their staff and are intent on proving any allegations against staff are true. Disgraceful .

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  • no help or support for those whose careers and life have been left in tatters as an indirect result, without an individual ever actually being involved in the NHS intrigues and bullying and whistle blowing! some are unwittingly treated as scapegoats and in a new job have no idea what is going on until it is too late and they find themselves being unfairly dismissed!

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  • I have become a victim of bulling in the workplace over a week ago and I have not stop crying -I love doing my job and give a 110% of high-quality care but the impact is serious trying so hard for it not too destroy me.

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  • the rcn claim to offer help and support but failed me badly. in the first instance I was employed by a private clinic and they said they could not help in these circumstances, but surely an NHS trained nurse and an RCN member is no different from any other?
    eventually I requested to speak to one of their counsellors and arranged a telephone appointment with them. the second time I had to ring back and change the appointment as I discovered it coincided with a previously unplanned lecture on a new university course I was taking and didn't want to miss. the woman totally disbelieved me and told me 'I was testing their boundaries' which is rather stereotypical psychology speak and I would imagine from somebody with rather limited training and experience so after once again trying to explain my reason and justify my need to reprogramme the telephone session with little success I ended the sessions there. For me it did not paint their support and skills in good light and this is not the first experience I have had with them when seeking job information and advice. I once met a traumatised young lady who worked as an administrator at the RCN where she alleged that they spent much of their working time engaged in gossip and she had been bullied 'to death'!
    I was appalled! Now my only interest for a small fee is there online library and access to an extensive list on online journals.

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