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Former Mid Staffs chief nurse was 'aggressive and intimidating', hearing told

  • 17 Comments

A former chief nurse at Stafford Hospital was a “bully” who intimidated staff and “wholly failed” in her management responsibilities in areas such as ensuring adequate staffing levels, a disciplinary hearing has been told.

Janice Harry acted in an “aggressive and intimidating” way and shouted at staff who raised problems with her, reducing some to tears, the Nursing and Midwifery Council heard.

Harry denies a series of charges dating between 1998 and 2006 and related to alleged failures to ensure adequate nursing staffing levels and appropriate standards of record keeping, hygiene and cleanliness, administration of medication, provision of nutrition and fluids and patient dignity.

She also denies accusations of bullying staff who raised problems with her - allegedly creating a “stressful and unpleasant” atmosphere which discouraged staff from reporting problems, the NMC heard.

“The NMC case against the registrant may be summarised in this way, the case is based on serious failings in her management role,” William Davis, for the NMC, said.

“It is not said that she was directly and personally responsible for the numerous examples of poor care delivered by staff at Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, on the contrary the evidence suggests that her time on the wards with patients was limited.

“Rather the NMC say that she wholly failed in her management responsibilities to ensure, amongst other issues, appropriate staffing levels and the correct skill mix.

“The NMC also say the registrant took an aggressive and intimidating management style which created a stressful and unpleasant atmosphere for staff who as a result felt unable to report problems. When they did so they were treated rudely and there is evidence that on occasions they were reduced to tears.

“It was in this climate, the NMC say, that the problems at Mid Staffordshire became established. The NMC say that these failures amounted to misconduct by the registrant.”

Harry was employed by Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust and its predecessor Mid Staffordshire General Hospitals NHS Trust from 1998 to 2006, the NMC was told.

From 1998 she was director of nursing and quality assurance at Stafford Hospital and in 2002 was appointed director of clinical standards and chief nurse as well as director of infection prevention and control.

She denies misconduct.

Harry denies all the allegations put before the NMC including an accusation of putting patients in danger by failing to ensure adequate nursing staff levels on ward 10D between 2002 and 2006, the accident and emergency department between 1998 and 2006 and the emergency admission unit (EAU) between September 2005 and June 2006.

She is also accused of putting patients at risk by failing to ensure an adequate mix of staff skills, on ward 10D, between 2002 and January 2006, A&E between 1998 and 2006 and the EAU between September 2005 and June 2006.

The charges include allegations of failing to communicate with nursing staff in an “appropriate” manner - allegedly shouting at nursing staff and using “inappropriate language”.

She told a ward sister on one occasion that another member of staff was a “waste of space” and reduced one ward manager, named as Ms D, to tears, it is alleged.

Harry “tore shreds off” and ignored the concerns of another ward manager, named as Ms C, after Ms C told her that a patient was not well enough to be sent home, it is further alleged.

Harry is also accused of providing inaccurate information during a reconfiguration of services including telling the trust board in April 2006 that the impact of proposed cost savings would not be harmful to patient safety or care.

She also provided inaccurate information to the hospital management board in April 2006 that a proposal to change the ratio of qualified to unqualified staff from 60/40 to 50/50 or even 40/60 would not have an impact on the numbers of staff and standards of care, it is alleged.

Sign our Speak Out Safely petition to support a transparent and open NHS. We are calling on the government to implement recommendations from the Francis report that will increase protection for staff who raise concerns about patient care.

She is accused of reassuring the trust board that nursing vacancies were being filled when she knew, or ought to have known, that recruitment at the trust was an “ongoing issue”.

  • 17 Comments

Readers' comments (17)

  • What an unpleasant character!

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  • why wasn't this dealt with at the time?

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  • [Devil's Advocate]
    Sometimes people with strong personalities are appointed into roles like this in the belief that intimidation and not being everyone's mate is an effective form of measurement. This is virtually prehistoric thinking and the local recruitment and selection process and core values of the Trust may need to be looked into. Staff in the NHS are intrinsically helpers by nature and that quality needs to be present within senior grades as well - not just patient facing staff. [/Devil's Advocate]

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  • Sorry typo above should be management not measurement. I'm blaming my man-flu that I am working with!

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  • are aggression, an attempt to dominate and bullying in cases like this a sign of not being able to cope or a lack of confidence?

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  • This type of manager is repeated in almost every trust up and down the country!! This is why the NHS is on the decline! And why nurses are leaving the profession in droves, or just so sick to death of the crap they face at work on a daily basis, they go on extended sick.

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  • I had a manager who bullied a member of staff so badly that the victim had palpitations and had to spend the night under observation in hospital. Nothing was done about this despite a formal complaint. The view of HR was that it was her word against that of her victim and they never went on to ask why she had to be admitted to hospital. How can progress be made if this is the attitude of management?

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  • I was thrilled to get a part time job on the bank in a well known local private hospital used by the larger and well known insurance companies. Sadly my Mum died there some months before and I had spent considerable time there with her including a few nights and found the nursing care very good and the staff friendly, approachable and helpful.

    It used to be run by Franciscan nuns and there were still one or two in senior positions such as the director of nursing and head of pastoral care.

    I had successfully completed a few shifts on different wards and on the next one I went up to the sister to introduce myself and in mid-sentence of telling her my name she started barking orders at me. This went on all day and I was given menial tasks, and no tasks requiring a qualified nurse, including shouting at me when we were both standing beside the desk to open a drawer and pass her a form without so much a please or a thank you! Two very helpful nurses explained where various things were, the routine, how equipment worked, etc. but every time she saw one of them with me she came and barked orders at them an sent them off to do something else. Whilst making beds I gathered they were not at all happy with their situation or this type of ward management and I listened to their concerns. I was wondering how to deal with this behaviour myself being far older than the sister and with considerable experience in my previous job and used to a great deal of autonomy. It wasn't easy but I wished to start as I meant to go on without being trampled on but on the other hand didn't wish to upset the apple cart or put my new job at risk. As I was given some choice of wards I was sent to I decided to sit it out for the day, observe, do as I was told and then try to make sure I was not sent back there and if pushed would have explained why. I had to see the secretary responsible for the planning before each shift.

    To my surprise, at home the next day, I picked up the phone and it was the director of nursing who said she did not wish me to return as I had been reported for complaining (when I had said a word to nobody)! She did not tell me who had made this allegation nor offer me the opportunity of a meeting with them and herself to explain the reason for this or to defend myself. I don't know to this day what happened or who complained about me but I can only think I was used as a scapegoat by the nurses on this last ward I worked on.

    i phoned the RCN for advice as I was so stunned I had not even known how to respond to the director or nursing, not that she had given me an opportunity to do so and I thought it was better to get some professional advice if I wished to take matters further. they informed me that there was nothing that they or I could do as it is a private hospital.

    I wrote a letter to the director of nursing explaining how much I regretted her decision and also my position and my satisfaction with the care my mother and I as a relative had received and my reasons for wishing to work in this hospital because of its excellent reputation and that I had no reason whatsoever to complain about it (although I might well have done in the future had I been expected to remain under the management of this sister). In fact on that shift I had also shared a table with her at lunch and although she mainly addressed her other colleagues and ignored me I did try to make conversation with her but by this time was so stressed and nervous it was not very effective despite the fact I have been in contact with so many different people and cultures in my life I normally have little difficulty.

    I was so upset that I wrote at the end of the letter I now consider this matter closed as there was little point in taking it any further and I obviously never heard another word.

    I have spent most of my career working abroad where I have always been treated as a professional in my own right and with the utmost respect so was totally unprepared for this type of behaviour and so stunned I had no idea how to react. I have done much soul searching to see what I can change about myself to make it easier to be accepted but having over the past year read here of so many experiences of nurses working in the NHS I have come to the conclusion this has sadly now become fairly general behaviour in the NHS and health services in the UK and I am not the only one who has been on the receiving end of it.

    I qualified in London in the late '70s and more recently did another short stint in the NHS in a more senior positon and although it was not perfect I had never before encountered anything like my own treatment or the stories I read in these NT comments. I thank people for sharing them so that I can move on and not take all of the blame as this incident, even after a long and successful career, gave a very serious knock to my self-esteem and self-worth.

    I have diverted from the main theme of the article but just as a continuation of other comments on the appalling management behaviour sometimes encountered by us from ward sisters and senior staff.

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  • yep it is so common. Also ignoring pleas for more staff-nowadays I send E mails so that there is an audit trail in case of complaint-it is amazing how quickly those managers respond when they think there is proof they are mis managing-go for the written stuff everyone- works a treat!

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  • If you speak to the hospital managers, patient groups, regulatory groups or the CQC do they visit the ward, carry out an inspection and speak to the staff immediately?

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