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Nurse death not linked to bullying


An inquest into the suicide of a Bolton nurse who said she was bullied by colleagues shortly before she hanged herself has found “no direct link” between her claims and her death.

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In a suicide note left by Margaret Gettins shortly before her death in January, she claimed she had been the victim of name-calling from fellow nurses and staff at Royal Bolton Hospital.

The note was discovered by her husband, Chris, a senior manager at the hospital, who revealed that she had raised concerns about being called “unpleasant” names while on duty at a new ward, but that she had never approached her ward superior to address the problem.

The inquest also heard that Mrs Gettins, 50, kept a diary in which she recorded her problems at work.

Despite the details in the note, her conversations with Mr Gettins and the contents of her diary, the inquest found “no direct link” between her claims that she was bullied by colleagues and her suicide.

Bolton deputy coroner Alan Walsh recorded a verdict that Mrs Gettins took her own life while the balance of her mind was disturbed, rightly or wrongly, by her issues with the hospital and also a nursery which she had written about in her diaries.

In a lengthy statement following the hearing, a spokeswoman for Royal Bolton Hospital expressed sympathy on behalf of the hospital but admitted there were “further issues” that needed to be reviewed following the decision.

“We were very shocked to hear about the sad death of Mrs Gettins, who was a very caring and committed nurse, and we have sent our condolences to Mr Gettins and his family,” she said.

“Based on information made available to us by the police and coroner following Mrs Gettins’s death, the trust carried out, at the request of the coroner, a review of the ward environment Mrs Gettins worked on.

“We can confirm that, based on the information that was provided to us by the coroner, no direct link was established between the issues raised and the sad death of Mrs Gettins. However, there were further issues reviewed and these are ongoing, but there is still no causal link to Mrs Gettins. If further information is now made available to the trust following the inquest, we would include this as part of the review.”


Readers' comments (24)

  • Bullies only ever get away with their behaviour because of the inability of a bullied individual to either confront the issue and report the incidents or for management to not look at their existing culture and assess whether bullying could possibly exist.

    Bullying is defined in such a way now that it is not solely the intention behind any action by any potential perpetrator, but how that action is interpreted by the potential victim. If this message is not embedded into any organisations culture, bullying can take place without anyone actually realising it.

    For there to be "no direct link" to be recognised is perhaps acceptable given the fact that there is no opportunity for the deceased to give further information, I hope that the Trust have a serious look at their own bullying and harassment policy and training packages to ensure that people realise that the line between banter and bullying is not only thin, but is rarely in the same place for any two individuals.

    For the record I am most definitely not one of the PC brigade, I am a realist.

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  • of course the ward isn't going to turn around and openly admit that they bullued her even if they did...and half the time the bullying remarks are really 'only a joke' can anyone decide wether a suicide is a direct link to bullying or not...nobody knows exactly what's going on in her mind no matter what she put in her diary, but part of the reason she probably had mental issues was because of her unhappiness with some of her collegues. Nothing surprises me...people were getting serious depression and mental illness on a ward i worked in...horrible horrible....and the managers go along with it too....thought nursing was caring profession but never ever going to do it full time and hopefully be leaving totally soon. Although i have to say the ward i work on now which is part time 20 hours..night shifts...(everything i could do to move away from all that but still care for people) has alot of nice nurses and the bullying is prob only 20% but then i'm not new anymore so that helps..... But there's a lot of unhappiness and with unhappiness comes depression and low morale.

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  • Even with bullying and harrassment policies in place, if someone feels they are being bullied they should document everything. I find this such a sad case. Had the nurse documented everything then maybe the outcome would have been different, but as mentioned she is not alive to give further information.

    Nurses at any level should not have to put up with bullying, but sadly it happens from the top down, I know because I am there, the difference - I have everything finely documented and passed on to my RCN representative.

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  • This is a very sad case all round. Unfortunately she did not seek help or discuss this with anyone properly and so no-one will ever know the real truth. However, there are many views relating to what constitutes bullying. I am aware of a colleague who is a caring person but unfortunately is not a great nurse. This should have been picked up prior to her qualifiying but obviously wasnt. She is now being "carried" by her colleagues who are becoming increasingly fed up. Managers have been made aware but eventually, if not dealt with correctly by management, this will reach a point where she may feel she is being bullied. However, is this the right terminology? Some people even use this as an excuse when others are critical of their behaviour/skills/attitude. I even know one person who said she was bullied during her appraisal! Its an easy word to use now as it is very high profile in nursing. I am by no means saying that bullying does not happen and that the nurse involved in the sad case of this debate was not being bullied, I am simply saying that individuals have different definitions of the word "bully" dependent on their understanding and circumstances.

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  • Does a diary full of information, and suicide note stating her victimisation not have any input to the outcome?
    Clearly this nurse DID document details. and her husband was aware.
    Correct in the fact that those being bullied ussually are not strong enough to confront the issue or feel that they would not get the support from management ( who have sooo much more to deal with....sarcasm ) and the fact that should she have taken the issue further maybe she had cause to believe that it would have made issues worse for her to continue working there.
    Whatever other issues she had, obviously work played a part in her final decision.
    Emotional bullying is just not acceptable, but plays havoc with ones mind. If you are feeling emotionally threatened in your workplace it is a form of bullying.
    Would like to know what the " Further issues" were.
    How sad!

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  • As someone who has sought help for bullying and harassment, I have found a brick wall between the procedures/intent of exec level managers (who in my organisation have been shocked at how it's been handled (with delays for 3yrs) and suggested I put a grievance in), and the HR/line management level, who would rather do anything than admit they've allowed bullying to happen in their department. They told me I couldn't put in a grievance until the process was over. I'm still waiting for that. The process has now done a lot more harm than the bullying ever did, but despite numerous letters from Occ Health HR refuse to accept the link.

    It almost cost me my life, & similar events have cost 2 people I know their lives. HR are aware of this, but just said 'promise me you'll stay alive until it's all over'.
    At the points where I've been able to use my experiences constructively so hopefully no-one else ever has to go through the same, I've attended staff focus groups on Equality and Diversity (where I met the exec member). The sad fact was that everyone in that room (c.40 people) had suffered bullying or harassment, and in several cases it had been witnessed by colleagues who turned away. Some people who'd put in incident forms had been approached by manager and 'discouraged' from taking it forward.

    Until the stated ethos of organisations, and the reality match, it's not surprising bullies continue to get away with their behaviour, victims continue to suffer, & it will costs lives. That may sound emotive, but I know cases where it has happened.

    The inquest result (& headline) say no direct link, "issues with the hospital" cited. No direct link does not mean no link.

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  • Before I left the NHS some 15 years ago I was bullied mercilessly by colleagues. It got so bad I was actually accused of stealing and mishandling a patient's money - an accusation which was found to be utterly unfounded after a lengthy and very stressful investigation. Inspite of being absolutely vindicated when I had to take time off for surgery the rumor got back to me that I had been fired. I tired to talk to the manager - her suggestion "If this job you have applied for in the USA doesn't come through perhaps you should look for a position elsewhere." 15 years later I still feel chilled when I think about this - and I wonder what they did to other people after I left. Bullying in the workplace is often very discreet and much more subtle than anything perpetuated by kids in a playground.
    My heart goes out to this woman to have been pushed so far, and to her family who are left to pick up the pieces and live with the guilt that inevitably follows a suicide.

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  • The NHS has modernised and become accountable??? This sounds to me another case of how some (not all!)Managers, both at ward level and higher are unapprochable. There are supposed to be policies in place to deal with such issues. Bullying does occur in the NHS, I have been a victim of it. I have reported it, but the main offender has reduced her hours, so fortunately I dont have much contact with her.

    I wonder what the statistics are of reported abuse? Perhaps the Nursing Times, Unions, or the NMC themselves should conduct an anonymous survey, giving the opportunity for the respondant to raise issues that have been ignored.

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  • I really think you are right (to the post above), on viewing a lot of articles on this website...which ones get the most comments and feedback? The bullying articles....i really hope the nursing times or nursing management read these comments and some action can be taken with this. This is very serious. Look how many nurses are being bullied...and if the nurses are getting bullied...what happens to the happy nurse claire states in her articles...if the nurses aren't affects the patients. i think emotional one of people is very fact a standard interview in the NHS is only going to show a nurses the social tone of a person and not there chronic tone....if all the nurses are miserable and then the patients are miserable cos they are sick...what kind of place is this to work in?? and fair enough we can't be happy all time but don't take it out on other collegues. i'm over it...glad i left...nobody should have to work in that environment....

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  • Anonymous 15 Jul 2010, 2:03 shows just how poorly he or she understands the endemic cancer of bullying in the NHS.

    Is the "not great nurse" referred to competent to provide safe care? Has appropriate training been provided?
    If she is competent, there is no problem. If not, then the colleagues who are "carrying" her are being irresponsible.

    The managers who are ignoring the situation are displaying (all too common)professional misconduct and should be referred to the NMC. What is "anonymous doing about it? This is not bullying and correcting the situation in a professional way could not be construed as bullying.

    How can staff do their own work well if they have to carry an incompetent colleague? Members of the public are entitled to the highest level of care.

    Anonymous gives a clear description of poor leadership and management. This often leads to bullying but not in the way "anonymous" assumes.

    Targets of the bully or the mob do not claim bullying because they have been constructively criticised and supported.

    Research shows that the commonest cause of being bullied, is being good at one's work. False accusations,being frozen out of the team, unrealistic workloads, inadequate support, obstructed promotion, etc are some of the techniques being used. Some of them are very difficult to prove,particularly when many managers lie and are skilled in sanitizing their actions and omissions. HR and some unions are cosy in bed with corrupt managers.
    Colleagues are reluctant to support the target,as they know that they will be next if they speak out.
    Professional jealousy is the root cause of bullying and not individuals having different definitions of the B word. A literature search would help anyone who decides to comment on this issue.
    Kathleen White. Edinburgh

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