Nurse in Gloucester and Cheltenham "suicidally depressed by work overload"
IN the wake of the whistleblowing scandal, one former nurse at Holly House, in Gloucester, today speaks anonymously about her time with the 2gether NHS Foundation Trust about standards of care and the treatment of staff
"I AM appalled by the recent revelations at Stafford and recognise that there must be individuals who are so careless of others' lives and well being that they should never have been employed as nurses, doctors, care assistants – proverbial bad apples.
However, I have long felt that the major fault in the NHS is the culture of frequent service redesign, blame and scapegoating.
For many years I worked as a nurse in Gloucester and Cheltenham but retired early a few years ago following a disciplinary which tore me apart. I, like the nurse mentioned in The Citizen who is facing sanction by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, had drawn attention in writing and verbally on many occasions to the fact that I had not been given adequate support or instruction in my job.
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Although I had asked for help I was repeatedly told that my work was satisfactory – I knew it was not but the management chose to ignore my cries for help.
Ultimately I became suicidally depressed as a result of the work overload and following an incident which laid bare the problems I was experiencing I was suspended and disciplined.
I held my hands up to the error and was ultimately offered a return to work at a lower grade and with the proviso that I met all kinds of rehabilitative conditions.
I knew I was going to leave – had the Trust sacked me I would have sued them for wrongful dismissal but I knew I would never work for the NHS again.
My point is that there are many practitioners who do get into trouble but that the root cause of the problem is never addressed.
Management staff within the NHS are often inexperienced and unsupported in trying to manage their departments and senior management prefer to turn a blind eye to problems until someone hits their radar.
In my case I had repeatedly drawn attention to my problems and was always ignored.
Having read the reports that those management staff wrote about me for the disciplinary I have to say that many of them lied about me quite blatantly.
I would no more have let a patient go uncared for in the matter of basic needs or turned a deaf ear to the needs of a patient than fly to the moon. I had an exemplary history behind me but I was inadequately prepared for my role and heavily overloaded with clinical work - I always saw a patient if they needed to be seen and it was my tendency to see to that rather than keep on top of the ludicrous amounts of paperwork that led to my downfall.
I have seen many examples of blatantly bad nursing at all levels but am aware of how effectively easy it is to remain as a manager (often being promoted upward) when things are going wrong. At the time I was disciplined nurses were being suspended and disciplined on a frequent basis – I can only assume they were in similar case to me. None of them seemed to be at heart bad nurses.
But I have also seen throughout a long career, downright cruelty, appalling insensitivity and couldn't care less attitudes. This is visible at all levels of nursing and also in other medical professions.
I make no apologies for the terrible shortcomings that are being witnessed these days and feel that there is no excuse for neglect of the basic needs of the patient. The graduate training of nurses is a total red herring – nursing in the twenty first century needs highly trained nurses.
What it also needs are better trained and better paid intermediary levels – remember the State Enrolled Nurse? Care assistants receive much more training nowadays than previously but their role is changing and they have more and more responsibility for which they are underpaid and often unappreciated.
There have always been nurses who should never have been allowed within five miles of a sick person – I have witnessed this professionally and personally.
Please do not condemn all hospital staff as uncaring and unthinking. Believe me, the cry of exhaustion and not enough time is not just an excuse; nurses are exhausted and living and working in an unhealthy culture which puts targets, financial gain and personal aggrandisement way ahead of patient care.
Good luck to you all out there on the ward and in the community; the world knows that most of you are at heart committed and caring human beings.
NHS – you need to sort out the way you treat your staff and acknowledge that there are some needs which are more important than a balance sheet.
Public/patients – I do firmly believe that most nurses do want to care and will go many extra miles to do what they can for patient welfare. Take heart from the letters appearing in the press praising the good work that nurses do and remember that a good nurse may be from any level. I am aware that managers feel the need to protect themselves, which is why good nurses such as myself and many others find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time and fail to whistleblow or successfully defend themselves and their colleagues or to speak for the patient.
After my disciplinary I was told that no word of what went on in the room should ever be spoken outside which is why it has taken me a while to try and explain to people the contorted way in which the NHS works. Secrecy in a disciplinary is a good thing when it protects the innocent but when its apparent aim is to protect management it is questionable.
I am not surprised at the story of Staffordshire only bitterly saddened. This must never happen elsewhere and individual heads should roll - but I don't suppose they'll be the heads of the major culprits.
As I have been told not to tell my story publicly I will sign myself as."
â In response to this letter, Trish Jay, Director of Nursing, Quality and Performance, for 2gether NHS Foundation Trust said:
"I was most concerned to hear the views of an ex-employee and very much encourage them to contact me personally so I can understand their concerns, their situation and ensure any actions are taken forward," she said.
"Providing high quality services is central to what we do and the health and wellbeing of staff is key to making that happen.
"We offer colleagues on-going support through supervision and training and our occupational health service helps ensure physical and mental wellbeing.
"I am proud of our highly qualified, committed and caring colleagues. They undertake complex assessment and treatment work in sometimes difficult circumstances.
"We celebrate the excellent care we see and encourage colleagues to be aware of and use our whistle blowing policy.
"It is also important that we continue to find ways of hearing any concerns and act upon them."