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Exclusive: Whistleblower vows to continue ‘fight for justice’ after latest legal setback

  • 11 Comments

A nurse whistleblower who unsuccessfully took the Nursing and Midwifery Council to court, after implicating the regulator in the loss of her career, has been left facing a bill of £15,000.

Vasanta Suddock, a former matron and care home manager, had attempted to sue the regulator, claiming her professional reputation was “ruined” by the way it handled a previous fitness to practise case against her.

“I have been through six years of hell all because I whistleblew and challenged people”

Vasanta Suddock

As previously revealed by Nursing Times, she was struck off the register in 2015 but successfully fought to clear her name last year and recently went to try and sue the NMC.

She argued that the NMC’s actions amounted to “defamation” and breached her human rights and was seeking £500,000 compensation for loss of earnings and other personal and emotional damage.

While her claim reached the High Court, it was ultimately dismissed due to laws that protect quasi-judicial bodies from being sued, she told Nursing Times.

In a summary judgement, handed down earlier this month, she was told her case was “totally without merit” and there were “no reasonable grounds for bringing the claim”.

“Basically, they can’t get the money because I can’t get a job”

Vasanta Suddock

She was also ordered to pay the NMC £15,000 in court costs. Ms Suddock, who has struggled to find a new job, is still waiting to hear whether or not the regulator will make her pay the full sum.

However, she said that if the regulator did make her pay back the money it would “add insult to injury”.

“The order has come through from the High Court, but the NMC haven’t decided whether they want to enforce it or not,” she told Nursing Times.

“I am not going to be able to pay it – £10 a month is what I’m offering,” she said. “Basically, they can’t get the money because I can’t get a job.”

Her latest case was dismissed, she said, because the NMC and similar bodies were legally protected by “absolute privilege”, which enabled potentially libellous statements to be made in hearings such as a misconduct case.

Nursing and Midwifery Council

Exclusive: Nurse takes NMC to court to ‘help whistleblowers’

Vasanta Suddock

However, Ms Suddock said she felt this blanket protection was unfair in the case of whistleblowers like her, who had been wrongly accused of misconduct because they had raised concerns.

As reported last month by Nursing Times, the original decision to strike her off was quashed by a High Court judge, who ruled there was evidence to show she was the victim of a “conspiracy” to tarnish her name.

The judge also criticised the NMC’s competence and conduct committee for failing for examine the credibility and motives of witnesses.

Despite her unsuccessful bid to sue the NMC, Ms Suddock said she planned to “keep on fighting” and was now seeking free – pro bono – legal representation to help her challenge wider defamation laws that apply to all professional regulators.

“I was shocked to find out that not only is the NMC protected under absolute privilege but witnesses can lie and be malicious, and they are protected too. That’s not right. It is incompatible with basic human rights, so I want to change the law,” she said.

“I have to keep on fighting,” she said. “My livelihood and reputation have been ruined and I am still unable to obtain alternative employment because of what was published about my case.

“But this is not just about me, but all other whistleblowers, and that is why I am appealing for a pro bono lawyer to help me carry on,” she told Nursing Times.

“This is not just about me, but all other whistleblowers”

Vasanta Suddock

Ms Suddock said she has been contacted by several other nurses who felt they had been referred to the NMC because they had raised concerns but had not been recognised as whistleblowers.

“There is a pattern where employers make a referral after someone has raised a concern but never before,” she said.

“I have seen the damage to other whistleblowing nurses, midwives, doctors and other professionals who have come up before various regulators,” she said.

“At these types or hearing, witnesses can say what they like and they will strike off or sanction or impair innocent nurses who have whistleblown,” she said. “You can appeal but some nurses aren’t strong enough to go through that.”

Ms Suddock told Nursing Times she had applied for more than 600 nursing jobs but that employers “will not touch” me, despite the fact she had cleared her name and her registration was up to date, having recently gone through revalidation.

182_royal_courts_justice.jpg

The High Court is located at the Royal Courts of Justice in London

She said she feared cases like hers could deter other from raising valid concerns about poor care standards, but maintained she would do the same again if necessary.

“I have been through six years of hell all because I whistleblew and challenged people, and people didn’t like me for challenging them,” she said.

“If I am put in a similar situation again I will feel very fearful of challenging people. However, if I see abuse or neglect – I’m not going say ‘Oh God I’ve been done by the NMC, they’re going to report me’. That fear will always be there but I am not going to change,” she said.

Ms Suddock said she had emailed the NMC and was waiting to hear back whether or not they expected her to pay £15,000.

Asked about the situation, the regulator said it was not prepared to disclose its decision on the matter to Nursing Times.

“In this case, the judge said there were no reasonable grounds for bringing the claim and ordered that our legal costs should be paid,” said a spokeswoman. “Discussions about legal costs are between us and the individual concerned.”

  • 11 Comments

Readers' comments (11)

  • Despite fine words from government and professional bodies, nothing changes. Time and time again we see whistleblowers persecuted, losing their careers and having their lives ruined. To me, the lesson is clear: don't listen to the words, listen to what the hierarchy do, then draw the right conclusion: keep the whistle in your pocket if you want to continue to support yourself or your family.

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  • Why should the NMC waive the costs order?? If they do, it's the rest of us footing the bill. This nurse brought a case that prelimininary legal advice must have shown was futile - the protection afforded to the NMC must have been known before they got to court, but she went ahead anyway. Let her crowd fund if she likes, but I think it'd be immoral if the NMC was to waive the costs awarded.

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  • The NMC registrants paid for the full investigation and 2 long CCC hearings which took from November 2011 until May 2016 and finally confirmed my FTP was not impaired.

    NMC / CCC panel in 2015 protected NMC witnesses who acted with MALICE AND CONSPIRED TO FRAME ME. ..... AFTER I WHISTLE- BLEW AGAINST THEM ...... refer to high court judgment & ET judgment.

    How much do you think the last 5 years of investigations and CCC hearings cost the NMC registrants?

    The law allows malice and such horrendous allegations under absolute privilege.

    The 2nd anonymous comment doesn't sound like a whistleblowing nurse or midwife to me. In fact it doesn't sound like any intelligent person with a heart. ...... who obviously agrees with current incompatible legislation: ABSOLUTE PRIVILEGE AND MALICE

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  • the NMC is a persecutory body
    it is run by a bunch of second rate malevolent fools
    us nurses en masse should cease our payments to it

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  • I’m so sorry to hear what has happened to Vasanta Suddock after her brave decision to try and flag up NMC failings in her case, wrecking her career, and experienced by others too when the NMC don’t properly investigate prior to a hearing or when it is one person’s word against another’s, when the word of the manager is believed against the word of the registrant.
    The person facing false allegations also has to fight their corner alone if they don’t have union support whilst the trust uses experienced barristers who have to take the word of the managers even when they doubt the truth of what they are saying.
    A solicitor who has supported registrants through the www.suspension-nhs.org website expressed his shock at the size of the team involved against himself and the registrant when representing them at a Fitness to Practice hearing at the NMC, which he sees as an incredible waste of public funds.
    The whole process is a devastating disaster for the registrant. Whistleblow? No get out first and find another job and then blow the whistle.
    Julie Fagan, founder member of CAUSE (Campaign Against Unnecessary Suspensions and Exclusions in the NHS (UK))

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  • It is disastrous when people who flag up serious concerns are then silenced by their organisation. The Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt is well aware of this serious problem and in the foreword to a document written to explain how concerns should be dealt with, Mr Hunt wrote: - ‘Staff should be supported and protected when they raise concerns, as well as praised for their courage and thanked by management as a key part of the effort to build a safe, effective and compassionate culture that patients, service users, the public and the overwhelming majority of staff across health and social services expect.’
    The document is called ‘Raising concerns at work’ and it can be read or downloaded at www.wbhelpline.org.uk published in 2014 by the whistleblowing helpline.
    How different it would be if the excellent guidelines were followed.
    Julie Fagan, founder member of CAUSE (Campaign Against Unnecessary Suspensions and Exclusions in the NHS (UK))

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  • I complained in 2010 about a forensic hospital that had for years been secluding patients as routine management for pitifully minor behavioural infringements. It even secluded calm patients to enable staff meal breaks. The hospital immediately suspended me then conducted a fake internal investigation in 2011 following my meeting with the trust CEO who ordered it. The ‘data based’ internal investigation not surprisingly declared its seclusion practices as 'lawful'. Subsequent local CQC and LA Safeguarding ‘investigations’ were equally useless declaring 'nothing to be found'. I was the 'fired' in 2012 for having legitimately accessed the 2010 seclusion victims clinical file which was held to be confidential to her specific ward (nonsence). On appeal this was reluctantly changed to accessing the file for too long or “excessive time-volume” nevertheless still held as ‘gross misconduct’. I was promptly referred to the NMC who hired a solicitor from their contracted 'firm' to return to the hospital and who then spent 2013 cobbling together a case that merely resurrected the initial rubbish that the hospital was previously forced to drop. I was 'convicted' in February 2014 on all counts of course and moreover of breaching the 2010 seclusion victims 'confidentiality' and placed on exacting 'practice conditions' whereby I remained on permanent surveillance thus alerting any employer for good or ill to know that the NMC remained poised as a certain ally on the end of a phone line. During 2013 I continued pestering national CQC with my seclusion complaints and finally a level 2 investigation was ordered. A month after my NMC conviction in March 2014 the CQC mounted a special three-day seclusion-focussed 'raid' of the hospital (Roseberry Park, Middlesbrough) and found everything that I’d complained about i.e calm innocent patients locked into un-time-limited seclusion whilst not knowing why they were there coupled with hopelessly inadequate policies and paperwork. Ironically the authors of the original internal seclusion investigation, i.e. the manager who fired me and the consultant who had ordered the original 2010 seclusion of the girl were given responsibility to head up the hospitals six month turn-around programme! (cf CQC report July 2014 Roseberry Park Hospital). The lead inspector who planned and led the three day ‘raid’ happened to hear about my case and rang me in May 2015. He thanked me for persisting at national level and explained that he had nothing to do with ‘local’ CQC inspectors original visits. I told him about the NMC case and was helpfully advised to "find a good lawyer". Three months before the call I had secured a short term job temporarily managing a nursing home whilst the manager had back surgery. I took it because I urgently needed the cash and my 'conditions' severely impeded my choices. It quickly turned out the worst I had ever seen for various reasons but crucially it appeared on friendly terms with the local CQC. The last accurate CQC report was November 2013 from an outside inspector before being handed back to usual friends. Indeed, two recently appointed cooks walked out the day I started having previously written to the owner and authorities with no action taken. In fact one complaint was immediately sent back to the manager by the current local CQC inspector with "Hi XXXX take a look at this and get back, bye!" The manager handed it around the dining room for all to read. I did what I could, complaining on her return, then walked". I was immediately referred back to the NMC who dispatched yet another solicitor who concocted along with a bunch of rogue 'carers' six unrelated allegations immediately brought by the NMC as charges and for which I was promptly struck off last August. I sat incredulously in the hearing room in August 2016 not knowing whether to explode with anger or simply to laugh as all six charges were declared 'proven' in turn. I had nothing left so published an anonymised photograph I'd carefully taken at the home of one elderly lady receiving toileting care sitting in her wheelchair with the carer typically wearing no protective equipment with door typically wide open along with some key data facts about recent death-clusters in respect of non-specific infections, and mentions of earlier written complaints in relation to poor basic hygiene, various accounts both personal and recorded of bad practices and concurrent chronic weight losses that I had managed to stop and even reverse in one case by +6.5% during the short five weeks I was there. (One allegation was that I fed this resident in a 'headlock'. I was using Zeiler & Jervey style prompting and fading which I legitimately demonstrated and taught to staff). I promptly received a referral to the DBS relating to this photograph and the legitimate accessing the original seclusion girls file in 2010 but whose lawyers have created a similarly hard worked all-round case with acres of barely relevant but effectively confusing paperwork in order to ‘shuffle’ me through as posing a global threat to the ‘confidentiality’ of vulnerable adults and children complete with a 10 year ban thus completing a comprehensive professional discrediting to any remaining threat that my truths might pose to the NMC. My unstructured observations of the NMC made as an ENB705-trained nurse behaviour-therapist tells me that the NMC represents a circus of lawyers and attached careerists whose single apparent purpose whether directed or not is merely to 'successfully prosecute' cases by whatever means. I know for a fact that there are barristers who refuse to prosecute because of the NMC's poor prosecution standards. Under the personal and professional limitations of its current senior management the NMC has simply lost its former UKCC common-sense and, it has to be said (given some of the eye-watering and blatantly corrupt prosecution offerings) its former UKCC common decency. I have never met Vesanta Suddock but I know given my own observations and experience of the NMC that she has to be one very, very special nurse and I cannot think of a better replacement for the NMC's current offering.

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  • Nurses and the NMC has a sadomasochistic relationship it seems. This is because we pay them to beat us!!!

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  • The NMC exists to cram as much money as possible as fast as possible into the CEO's purse and the wallets of second rate legalists at underpaid nurses expense.
    We need to have a mass refusal to pay our fees to this bunch of crooks.
    They deliberately and maliciously ruin the careers of nurses whilst stealing their money.

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  • The NMC is a corrupt organisation who appears to be working hand in glove with corrupt dangerous employers & care providers.
    In 2012 Care UK took over from Southern Health.
    At the 1st inspection I told the regional managers (Karen Morrison RGN [man1] & Denise Findley NVQ, [man2] named in NMC hearing & High Court) that the treatment room was too small & not fit for purpose. I was told to do a business plan, which I did. The room/cupboard was for meds for up to 19 residents & any CDs for up to 71 residents. These 2 managers in their wisdom ADDED medicines and a 2nd drug trolley for a residential unit of 20 residents, handing a set of keys to HCAs.
    The 'treatment room was now congested and dangerous. Food supplements were stored next to drains under the sink. Catheter bags on the floor under the fridge. Paperwork dangerously stored on top of the fridge. There was no room to check drugs as per Care UK policy 2011 or to safely store drug ready for checking. They were in a locked bathroom!!!!!!!

    In July 2013 a resident was able to get some Lorazepam & take some. How did she get it no one knows but as I was the RGN with 50 years experience & training and of course I was blamed. The HCA with 2 years experience had done a Boots medication course! I was suspended went through a Care UK show trial, where a lot of false allegations were made & I was dismissed.
    During my time at the home, after Care UK took over I reported to CQC and to Durham County Safeguarding Unit a number of times. I had also raised 3 lots of grievances against the manager {not named}
    Then I was referred to NMC by MAN1 and the NMC witness was no other than MAN 2.
    Originally there were 6 charges which I proved beyond doubt that 5 were false. 'That I didnt get emergency help quickly', Thankfully the home phone battery was flat so I used my mobile so a photoshot of the 3 x 999 calls put paid to that. That I hit the resident but no one from Care UK or UHND (hosp) could not any provide evidence, that put paid to that. In fact the hospital couldn't even give any care because of the pts violence, they assessed her GCS from a distance?
    I was unable to attend he NMC hearing as my Mother in Law died 3 days before it started on 15th October 2015. I provided the NMC with this information stating her name, the ward and the hospital by email the same day she died. The NMC asked me for proof! PROOF OF HER DEATH
    They refused to reschedule the hearing as I was already guilty because I had sent nasty emails to the incompetent case manager!
    I got a letter telling me I was suspended for 12 & 18 months TUT TUT.
    I went for appeal which was held on June 1st 2016. The judge at Leeds High Court overturned the NMC decision and awarded me costs.
    The judge said in summing up that "the working environment and the staffing levels placed staff in an intolerable position"
    The judge has seen my emails about my concerns, my grievance, my complaints. He alluded to them a number of times.
    To go to appeal I had to RISK £7000 + costs if I had lost. However I had an even handed unbiased judge and won. It shocked me that the NMC barrister still insisted that Lorazepam is a CD, I had given them evidence that it wasnt. My Barrister who was also an RGN stated that it was POM only & therefore different policies applied. The judge sent both barristers out of court to find out. As I had told the NMC Lorazepam is Sch 4 pt 1 drug & there are no restrictions for storage.
    The NMC is destroying careers on a daily basis. Not only that they are destroying marriages and families, placing nurses into financial ruin that they dont recover from. A few weeks ago police brought an RN down from a bridge over a motorway, another set himself on fire & died. NMC damages the mental health of many with 3, 4, 6, or more years of psychological abuse. The NMC act, in many ways the same as a coercive controlling partner in a relationship.
    I doubt the NMC will change their corrupt ways, this gravy train is too lucrative.

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