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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)

  • Yes, I agree with K.White's opinion that the root cause is professional jealousy.
    I was victimised by an organisation because I questioned written policy's.
    The result, I lost my job, but hey I'm now away from all the slandering and lies.
    The question is how do you change human
    nature? As a religious person only God can
    change the human heart.

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  • What an excellent description of the causes and processes of false allegations against the good nurse by Kathleen White.
    I can verify all she has written because I hear these stories repeatedly from people who contact the CAUSE website ( Their families and friends find it hard to believe that such behaviours exist and the length of time taken to follow the trust’s unfair processes that end in punishment of some sort, to justify the manager’s actions.
    Legal action is a difficult and expensive route to take and there is about a 60% chance of success if the case is fairly watertight. So much depends on your legal team and the judge and panel.
    In the meantime the trust is wasting huge sums of public money and totally unaccountable for it.
    This is failing to mention the devastation caused to the individual and the severe damage to their health, relationships, finances, and future.
    Sadly nothing seems to change.
    Julie Fagan ,founder member Campaign Against Unnecessary Suspensions and Exclusions UK

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  • I would say bullying in the NHS is underhanded, and if you are a person who have the nerve to stand up for yourself you can forget about ever being promoted. Basically you will need to change jobs bearing in mind these bullies have friends all over the NHS. I am at an age now that promotion does not bother me plus since I am not part of the management hierachy I can give my opinion point out when things are wrong and do not have to put up with any bullying. Sad that Margaret Gettens did not have at least one colleague who could give her moral support and listened to how she felt.

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  • I document some but not all of the underhand bullying that I receive. I don't tell my family about it. I have been driven to the edge and back again. One minute I am treated 'nicely' the next minute it's back to putting me down and showing me up.
    My heart goes out to this poor much more evidence is needed to prove a direct link? Off course she wasn't mentally 'on track', just how many suicides are commited by people that are of totally sound mind? It beggars belief that this has been dismissed and the perpetrator(s) are free to carry on with their lives.
    They wil not have this on their conscience, as I truely believe they do not have one.
    We are a caring profession? Sounds like it...not.

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  • Bullies operate in groups,cabals & cliques
    and are often supported by 'weak' management structures , and too often they seem overly familiar and friendly with these people.
    The NHS as a large state 'organ' seems particularly prone to this 'club culture'.
    I believe it is an indication of a serious break down in professional integrity and authority and nurse leaders /managers bare a huge reponsibilty for this. If colleagues are not supported adequately in the work place and suffer psychiatric injury as a result then this will have huge implications for the medico-legal industry which may in the future become pre- eminent in the governance of staff behaviour with the threat of criminal/civil prosecution as a regular thing.
    It may be useful if managers had the authority to move staff around or break up overly friendly groups becoming a bit too big for their job descriptions! .
    Shame on any manager or member of staff who keeps silent when they witness a colleague being bullied or harassed in the work place. They could be next! Speak out and challenge it. The more of us who do the less power bullies hold over the nursing profession. They have no skill and have nothing to offer.

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  • I was bullied (i left that ward in the end and looking back can't believed i stayed so long there and endured it)....and sexually harrassed but i was made to feel from pretty much the ward that i had made a big fuss and it was no big deal..(the guy still works on that ward till this day and they are all buddies with him)....the manager in this situation i have to say was (or seemingly to my face...but who knows behind my back as she was friends with the bullies) supportive and he was cautioned and i said i didn't want to take it further but wanted it to be a lesson. My other collegue was bullied more than me and in the end resigned as she couldn't handle it anymore...she did complain and the management knew all along what was going on. The manager actually said to her that she felt ashamed as she knew she was getting bullied but didn't stand up for her.

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  • Kathleen White, you are right when you site "professional jealousies" as a causative factor for bullying.
    I have seen this many times in my long nursing career. It is very sad that supposedly educated people have to drop to these incredibly low levels.
    All they are infact doing is highlighting what dreadful little cowards they are, for that is what a bully is, a coward.

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  • I was bullied and harrassed out of my post within the NSH... I did go to manager about it and she exploded... I wasn't in my right mind... But then that was the result of the bullies behaviour... So then I left after getting myself into an dreadful emotional state... now its going through procedures... AND GUESS WHAT... Those who participated in bullying me have made up allegations that I was rude, aggressive, and even used foul language... AND THERES MORE... the outcome has shown the perpetrators to be innocent! IT DIDN'T MATTER WHAT THEY HAD DONE TO ME...and my god i wonder what about patients! NURSES OR OTHER NHS STAFF BULLYING THEIR COLLEAGUES - WHAT ABOUT THE VULNERABLE PATIENT... Now I am still terrified to work in nursing as there are so many bullies even in privte health care!

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  • Although I agree with the analysis, the conclusion is nevertheless hasty.
    Let’s see some definitions.
    Wikipedia defines bullying, jealousy and envy as follows:
    Bullying is a form of abuse (verbal, emotional, physical). It comprises repeated acts over time that involves a real or perceived imbalance of power with the more powerful individual or group abusing those who are less powerful.
    Jealousy is an emotion and typically refers to the negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, and anxiety over an anticipated loss of something that the person values, such as a relationship, friendship, or love. Jealousy often consists of a combination of emotions such as anger, sadness, and disgust. It is not to be confused with envy.
    Envy (also called invidiousness) is best defined as an emotion that "occurs when a person lacks another's (perceived) superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it."
    Reading the above definitions, I believe that jealousy and envy are factors of bullying. The root cause lies deeper in our genes. No great difference within the animal reign!
    What can we do about it? Well! I am not sure. Maybe if I have a sense of death, hence a true sense of living, maybe I can really look at the mirror and said to myself: Am I a good person? Father? Husband? Friend? Colleague? Neighbour?
    Abel Sidhoum (RN)

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  • My heart goes out to this poor woman and her family, I also shudder at the memory that this could have been my story.
    7 years ago I was a manager in busy department of my local hospital I discovered a member of my team had tried to commit fraud. The only course of action open to me was to take matter to the HR department for investigation, whilst this was process was underway the person concerned and 4 of her alies made false allegations of B&H against me, thankfully following an extensive investigation and subsequent disciplinary hearing no case was found against me. Reading Margarets sad story has ressurected the moment when I too nearly ended my life due to the behaviour, comments and lies of the true bullies.
    All NHS Trusts need to recognise and accept despite all our "policies" Bullying is still happening within our working environment.

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