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London nurse who killed himself after being sacked was 'treated unfairly', finds review

  • 14 Comments

The boss of one the largest NHS trusts in the country has apologised after an independent investigation found a nurse who took his own life after being sacked was treated unfairly.

Amin Abdullah, 41, died in February 2016 after setting himself on fire outside Kensington Palace, just days before he was due to attend a hearing to appeal his dismissal from Charing Cross Hospital in London. The award-winning nurse had no previous history of depression or mental illness.

“It is now clear that we let Amin down and, for that, I am truly sorry”

Tim Orchard

Consultancy firm Verita was commissioned to carry out an investigation into the management of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust’s disciplinary process that resulted in Mr Abdullah losing his job.

Its damning report, published today, determined that the trust handled the procedure poorly and that charges held against Mr Abdullah were “completely unjustified” and “misplaced”.

His partner of 12 years, Terry Skitmore, who was instrumental in triggering the investigation, welcomed the report and said Mr Abdullah had finally been “vindicated”.

“It is clear from the evidence that Nurse Abdullah was treated unfairly”

Verita investigation 

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust chief executive, Professor Tim Orchard, admitted that Mr Abdullah should not have been dismissed.

Professor Orchard said he would now be commissioning a full overhaul of the trust’s disciplinary processes, both formal and informal, and was introducing interim measures to ensure all current and new cases met standards. 

He added: “This has been a thorough and fair investigation and we accept all of its findings and recommendations. Above all else, it is now clear that we let Amin down and, for that, I am truly sorry.”

In September 2015, the manager of the ward on which Mr Abdullah worked received an email from a patient raising concerns about a member of staff referred to in the report as Nurse X.

It said Nurse X was asked to provide a response and she subsequently submitted a letter, as well as a petition including signatures of support from colleagues.

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

Charing Cross Hospital

Source: Chmee2

Charing Cross Hospital

The report said Mr Abdullah was referred for a disciplinary hearing after it was discovered he had helped Nurse X write the letter and was also one of 18 people to sign the petition.

A three-month delay in the proceedings and lack of updates from the trust caused Mr Abdullah to slip into a depressive state.

His Royal College of Nursing representative asked the trust to make an urgent referral to occupational health for Mr Abdullah, which was not followed through.

He was then fired in December 2015. He wrote a letter of appeal but the response he received was “unduly harsh”, the investigation found.

Mr Abdullah, who was born in Malaysia and grew up in an orphanage, voluntarily admitted himself to St Charles Mental Health Unit in London early in 2016.

He subsequently took his own life on 9 February during a period of leave from the unit ahead of his appeal hearing.  

The Verita report was critical of the member of staff responsible for investigating the claims against Mr Abdullah that formed the basis of the disciplinary.

The report said: “The evidence shows that the investigating officer repeatedly raised questions about nurse Abdullah’s honesty on the basis of little or no evidence.

“She also failed to disclose evidence which was critical of her but which tended to exculpate nurse Abdullah,” it said. “The trust should consider the implications for the investigating officer’s integrity and, ultimately, her suitability for her role as a senior member of staff in the trust.”

“I really hope that Amin hasn’t died for nothing”

Terry Skitmore 

A summary report produced by a senior HR manager at the trust following Mr Abdullah’s death was also considered to contain “important inaccuracies” about the case that “gave the trust false assurance that it had done nothing wrong”.

The authors of the investigation, which was overseen by a stakeholder panel including representatives from NHS Improvement and Mr Skitmore, concluded that it “was clear from the evidence that nurse Abdullah was treated unfairly”.

Among the recommendations made to the trust were that it should provide improved training to those conducting investigations and hearings, take steps to better support staff through disciplinary procedures, and to provide staff under investigation with regular written updates if their case is delayed.

Professor Orchard said issues raised in the report about the actions of specific members of staff would be followed up.

Amin Abdullah and Terry Skitmore

Amin Abdullah and Terry Skitmore

Source: Terry Skitmore

Amin Abdullah and Terry Skitmore

Speaking to Nursing Times, Mr Skitmore said he would keeping a close eye on the trust to ensure improvements were made and that he hoped lessons could be shared nationally. 

He said: “I really hope that Amin hasn’t died for nothing – if it means that other people get a fair hearing and not a kangaroo court then that would be good.”

He added: “This has now vindicated him. He didn’t do anything malicious or wrong or bad and they totally twisted everything round and what on earth for? They lost one of their best nurses and I lost my partner.”

Mr Skitmore, 65, highlighted that the trust ignored his requests for an investigation into Mr Abdullah’s case until he got politicians involved. The review was eventually ordered by former health minister Philip Dunne.

Mr Skitmore said he planned to launch an award for nurses in Mr Abdullah’s name in partnership with Professor Narinder Kapur.

The pair have funded the project for five years and recipients will be those who demonstrate clinical excellence and compassion for colleagues.

  • 14 Comments

Readers' comments (14)

  • I totally get why.... Fortunately my faith held me fast in my experience, and I didn't take my life, but oh how I wanted to.
    So sad about this, and the others who are so falsely accused of wrong by colleagues.
    Stand strong if someone has landed you in the proverbial. It may take ten years or more, but, eventually you will get through it and one day, you will regain that post that should never have been ripped from you in the first place.

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  • Well done Mr Skitmore for obtaining justice. The usual NHS bullying and covering up has, for once, been shown up for what it is. Most, if not all, nurses could rattle off a list of names of people they have worked with who have been drummed out of the NHS or the profession on spurious grounds. Can we nominate Mr Skitmore for a post at the NMC? Such a tragedy.

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  • What a heartbreaking event and yet I am totally unsurprised as this type of vindictive bullying is endemic in the NHS.
    The vast chasm between Trust board and staff on the grounds is dangerous with vastly differing priorities between the two groups.
    The Trust boards are perceived to only show concern over finances whilst ground staff care about patients.
    I took early retirement as I was eroded by the way the NHS is managed these days and it will only get worse until the balance of power is returned to those who actually have the best interests of patients at heart and not the bean pushers and bully’s who currently manage our hospitals.

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  • So sorry for the lost,JUSTICE came too late..
    We work so hard and when we are accused we are treated as guilty with barely no support. before. I'm a strong believing Christian and only my faith keeps me grounded.
    Its so sad that the percentage of victims are of a certain ethnic groups!

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  • Rest in peace Amin

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  • Sad and utterly disgraceful.

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  • So sad to hear to that Mr Abdullah was so desperate and depressed that he took his own life. Why does change always seem to happen, only when something adverse occurs?

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  • Rest in peace...
    Support and reach out to your colleagues

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  • The comments of others are of course well intended and meant, however until the Nursing Workforce I hesitate to say Profession has the courage and independence to support each other it will be warm words.
    The phrase " lessons will be learnt " is said so often.
    This shameful tragedy must be a case study on every nursing course, highlighted in so called expensive Leadership study days, Please lets learn from other Professionals not to cover up, but to truly support each other as Nurses.

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  • Mealy mouthed statements from the trust.This man was deliberately destroyed by pathological bullying malicious managers who infest the NHS like diseased vermin.Unless these managers are removed the NHS will die finally of the cultural equivalent of Bubonic Plague.
    Now how about some sackings of those involved in his disgraceful treatment and the resignation of Prof Orchard. What is he a professor of ,clue, 8 letters beginning with B and ending with T.
    Report this comment as offensive if you wish, I find it offensive that an excellent nurse was treated so appallingly which directly resulted in his dreadful death.

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