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Minister orders independent investigation at London trust following nurse suicide


Disciplinary processes in the NHS are to come under the microscope after ministers ordered an independent investigation into the death of a nurse, which attracted widespread media attention last year.

Health minister Philip Dunne has intervened in the case of Amin Abdullah who died after setting himself on fire in the grounds of Kensington Palace in February 2016, according to Health Service Journal.

“The trust accepts that there were delays in the disciplinary process”

Trust spokeswoman

Mr Abdullah, who previously worked at Charing Cross Hospital, had been experiencing mental health issues following a delayed disciplinary process and dismissal from his job with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

After meeting with his partner Terry Skitmore last month, officials from the Department of Health and NHS Improvement have instructed the trust to conduct an independent investigation into its management of the disciplinary policies and procedures that led to Mr Abdullah’s dismissal.

A letter to Mr Skitmore from the minister also sets out plans by the DH to discuss with the Care Quality Commission how it may in future examine disciplinary processes as part of the “well-led” section in the regulator’s inspection regime.

He also said DH officials will attend the NHS Social Partnership Forum this month to discuss how to improve NHS disciplinary procedures.

In the letter, Mr Dunne said he was “committed” to “playing my part in ensuring disciplinary policies and procedures are appropriate and managed in a fair and equitable way by all trusts across the NHS”.

“I want the truth to come out about the way Amin was treated”

Terry Skitmore

He added that he wanted to ensure “the leadership and culture across the NHS is one where mistakes, whether in disciplinary processes or errors where whistleblowing is needed, are highlighted and learned from rather than covered up and ignored with patients and staff suffering alike”.

In his 2015 Freedom to Speak Up report on whistleblowing, Sir Robert Francis linked the experience of whistleblowers, bullying and disciplinary processes, saying he had received “convincing evidence” that concerns often led to disciplinary action rather than attempts to address concerns.

Mr Abdullah, an award winning clinician, was suspended in September 2015 after he organised a petition and a letter of support for a colleague following a complaint by a patient.

An inquest into his death heard delays in the disciplinary process caused him anxiety. He was dismissed in December 2015 and a month later he voluntarily admitted himself to St Charles Mental Health Unit in London.

Charing cross hospital

Charing cross hospital

Source: Creative Commons

On 8 February he left the unit unescorted and set himself on fire in the grounds of Kensington Palace. The coroner said Mr Abdullah “killed himself while the balance of his mind was disturbed”.

Mr Abdullah’s partner Terry Skitmore told Health Service Journal he welcomed the Department of Health’s intervention.

“I want the truth to come out about the way Amin was treated,” he said. “I firmly believe that the disciplinary process triggered Amin’s decline and the delays and lack of communication severely compounded this.

“Amin had no history of mental health illness,” he said. “The manner in which he was treated by Imperial turned him from a happy dedicated nurse to an urn of ashes.”

He added: “I can’t do anything for Amin now, he is at peace but I hope he didn’t die in vain. I want to make sure this doesn’t happen again. It is quite easy to do if there is a willingness to do it.”

Mr Skitmore said he first asked the trust to investigate Mr Abdullah’s death last year but he was ignored.

Department of Health

Student bursary system ‘unsustainable’, claims minister

Philip Dunne

A spokeswoman for Imperial College Healthcare confirmed that an independent investigation would take place after Philip Dunne’s intervention adding: “Trust managers and staff were very saddened by what happened to Amin Abdullah.

“The trust accepts that there were delays in the disciplinary process and has apologised for this as well as making improvements to its disciplinary procedures,” she said.

“Following the conclusion of the coroner’s inquest and further discussions with Mr Abdullah’s partner, the trust is commissioning an independent investigation into Mr Abdullah’s dismissal,” she added.


Readers' comments (8)

  • This is sad, the problem is that when a nurse is disciplined the whole nursing community treats that nurse like a criminal whether they are innocent or not! There is also a culture of "nurses should not make a mistake" this is atrocious we all make mistakes it is human nature. I feel this guy was inadequately supported by his so called nursing colleagues. Nurses are our worse enemies!!! This profession go on and on about caring but severely lacks the skill to care about each other!

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  • NMC hearings should be confidential. Only the final conclusions should be published.

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  • Doremouse

    Over 5000 nurses are referred every year, of these approx 2500 go onto a 'Case to answer'. Then their nightmare rally starts.
    Many are there for for simple errors, and doesn't everyone make a mistake sometime. They are suspended, go through a show trial with the trust/company and are dismissed!
    Then what;
    The dreaded white NMC envelope drops on the mat, at least 3 at a time. Recorded post, snail mail & another for good measure, usually on a Saturday morning or 2 days before a bank holiday, Christmas or Easter.
    The RN/RM is in limbo, no one at NMC to call, afraid to tell anyone even family, (many don't tell families) the fear and worse the shame of being referred. Many don't have unions to call and few of them are any good in these cases.
    Following dismissal, the wait, the wondering. Ex colleagues have been warned not to make contact. The nurse is effectively isolated.
    Then the loss of salary hits. Mortgages, children and other debts remain. Some nurses make the mistake of going to payday loans on up to 100% interest or worse still to loan sharks. It isnt easy getting work when youve been dismissed.
    The impact on the spouses/partners and children is horrific. They could lose their family and their home. Often the marriages fail because of the stress.
    The mental health of these nurses is made to suffer by the persistence of never ending cascade of letters from the NMC. One RN receives 2000 pages at regular intervals. Self harm and attempted suicides is prevalent amongst these referred nurses. Where do they turn? Recently police brought a suspended RN down off a bridge over a motorway
    The NMC can take 3,4,5 or even 6 years to complete their investigations. During this time the nurse may be suspended or if they can do a deal and say they are guilty (even if they are not) they may get Conditions of practice. Then the final hearing. Here those who have made an innocent mistake or failed to sign a MAR chart are lumped together with those who have killed their patient. Sometimes deliberately. There is no scaling, Beverly Allott and Victor Chau are treated the same way as those who failed to sign a chart or update a care plan because they have just work a 14 hour shift.
    The NMC process does not conform to good judicial process. There is no consistency in punishment (NMC it is intended to be punishment) Natural justice and Human rights are ignored, especially ECHR Art 6 A right to a fair trial. The NMC simply ignore that
    The only way nurses can get justice is to appeal, the only way to is through the High Court, it can be expensive, running into thousands of £ and not an option to unemployed debt ridden nurses who have been suspended or struck off the register.
    As part of their defence, even if they are innocent they must write a reflective piece on showing remorse, have insight and a remedial plan. In essence - a scripted admission of guilt.
    The NMC process must be investigated and their processes brought into line with good legal practices along with the trusts and provider companies.
    I only pray Amin did not die in vain. RIP Amin

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  • The comment above is spot on!

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  • The first comment is beautifully written and so true. Let common sense and Natural Justice prevail. Please?

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  • This case is so sad. Some years ago I made a complaint to a ward sister about my ward being unsafely staffed at night. Because the conversation was on the ward (and not in an office) I was hauled in front of a disciplinary panel for inappropriate behaviour as the patients would be concerned there were not enough staff! (They weren't stupid, they could see how few staff we had).
    It was only down to the wonderful support of my Unison rep that I "won" and wasn't dismissed though I was put on a six month warning. Needless to say I left as soon as I was able.
    If managers spent more time addressing staff's concerns rather than trying to apportion blame where none exists we wouldn't have these tragic cases.

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  • comments are spot on

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  • Do we know any outcome from the investigation commissioned?

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