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Bullying in the NHS

NHS Managers play a key role in Mental Health

Today’s post is about bullying and the total disregard for the staff’s Mental Health & Wellbeing in the NHS. It has been written by a former employee, whose identity we are not disclosing, to bring to light the need for a change in mental health policy and the attitude of management in the NHS.

This is Susan’s Story

I worked in an NHS hospital library for 16 years. My problem started after I had been there for about a year. The librarian had left and it took more than six months for them to recruit a replacement. In the meantime, my colleague and I were given extra tasks.

Once the new librarian started, I think I relaxed but developed chronic insomnia. I couldn’t sleep at all. The doctor wasn’t much help because when I asked for sleeping tablets, he said I could only have one course because they are addictive.

Because I was so exhausted, I took some sick leave

Not chunks, but a day or two here and there. I didn’t feel that I could take more than that because whenever I rang in sick the librarian huffed and asked if I would be in tomorrow. I was sent to Occupational Health where I was given the impression that my sick record was a bad as anyone in the Trust.

They recommended counseling and relaxation classes but in the end, it was hypnotherapy that got me sleeping again. I settled, but during another stressful time, I had another similar bout of insomnia and again had to go to Occupational Health.

What was interesting was that after the second visit to Occupational Health I heard about another member of staff who was off sick with stress, for three months. So I saw the whole picture and realised that I had taken a small amount of sick leave compared to other people.

Over the following years, I still had a ‘comparatively speaking’ small amount of sick leave each year. Some were anxiety based. But as more staff moved into the building, at the last count there were 35 members of staff working in there, some of it was down to what I called the Departmental Cold. When someone caught a cold or flu they still went to work, so the whole department went down with it.

My colleague was asthmatic and regularly got a chest infection when she caught a cold. My cold usually turned chesty, so I was coughing all night. As I had a “sick record”, I didn’t feel I could take much time off unless I felt really bad. On a couple of occasions, the librarian said that she didn’t care how much I was coughing as long as I was at my desk. Then I was told off for any sick leave that I did take.

Things took a final downturn in 2015

My husband had lost his Mum and two favourite aunts in the space of 9 months. They had been taken to my hospital and treated there. So I was very close to the situation as I worked there. Other family members worked away from healthcare.

It was very different the way the situation was handled by other workplaces. My husband works for a small company and was told to take as much time as he needed to, there was a more to life than work attitude. When I phoned in to say someone else had died, I got “Oh, will you be back tomorrow.”

Then things got worse

Next, his elderly father had a minor stroke, which affected his memory, and was diagnosed with Dementia. He was ok for a while then started having panicky episodes where he would phone for help and be taken to A&E Dept in an ambulance, at least once a week. Once there the panic would disappear and we would find him smiling at us and wanting to know when he could go home. It was an emotional rollercoaster. Unfortunately working at the hospital, seeing doctors and nurses every day and sitting in the library looking at book titles such as Bereavement, Stroke and Dementia sent me rather peculiar. So I had some more sick leave. Again, not much, but it did go up.

Management decided I was having too much sick leave. So I was first sent to Occupational Health where the nurse said that I hadn’t had that much compared to others, and it was understandable under the circumstances.

Next HR got involved and I had to attend meetings about my sick leave

At the first one, I was told that I had to go a month without any sick days. I managed that, just, but at the next meeting, I was told that I had to go two months without any sick days. This was when my Father in Law was really being unwell. My anxiety increased and I had quite a few days off. I worried about not being allowed to be off, so I ended up in a downward spiral.

At one point I told the librarian that I didn’t think I could carry on working there. She met me for a cup of tea and said I was a very valuable member of staff. Sadly she couldn’t put a stop to the HR situation. She also handed me a letter from HR which stated that after the two months sick free it was expected that I would have no sick days for the next 12 months. I did return to work for a few weeks but with Dad still being so unwell and knowing that I would be in serious trouble because of the sick days that I had taken, I was now seriously anxious.

The last straw

The last straw came when one morning I was given a batch of online articles to find about Stroke victims having mobility problems. After lunch, I had a major panic attack and left the library in tears. I phoned up the next day and told the librarian that I could no longer work there. She was very upset about it.

I think the situation was out of her hands. The driving force was our Senior Manager, who ironically had a far worse sick record than I did. At the first HR meeting, I was told about how many days I had been off in the previous 5 years. At the time I thought that this manager must have had at least ten times that many. Also, since leaving I have heard via several different ex-colleagues that this manager has had months and months of sick leave, over and over again and nothing is said to her. Her duties are covered by other managers. I felt very upset about hearing that.

The situation is still ongoing

A year later another of my colleagues also left the hospital in disgust, after working there for 22 years. She was also being bullied by the Senior Manager and another manager. She is a bubbly person but ended up with depression. She had also suffered family bereavements in the past, including her husband. She was off a short time afterward but was contacted by another manager who persuaded her to return to work before she was ready. Her sister was also told off by HR when she took 2 weeks sick leave after their mother died because she was in shock. And she is still being told off about it several years later.

Because of this attitude, the hospital is losing vital staff

The nurses there don’t feel valued and are told that if they aren’t happy they can leave and will be replaced. Except the hospital now has a reputation for widespread bullying and are having difficulty recruiting doctors and nurses. The result is that the hospital has had an Inadequate CQC report for two years running and have also been in Special Measures for two years, which means there is an unsafe level of staff for patient care.

I read that recently an outside union sent representatives to the hospital to offer advice and hand out leaflets about how to handle bullying. HR asked them to leave, and Police were called. The main cause of sick leave in the hospital is now Stress, Anxiety, and Depression. It really is shocking, especially as the place is a hospital, supposedly looking after patients.

What The Mental Health Initiative do…

The Mental Health Initiative is a not for profit organisation and works with the general public, in business and education, to help people self manage stress, anxiety, and anxiety related depression.

We help people to self manage their Mental Health with training, coaching, and mentoring, in all types of community, professional and high-performance environments.

Many years of experience have taught us that an organisation is only as good as its management and staff, so we put people first. Helping people to self-manage their Mental Health benefits both them and their company. We have found time and time again that productivity and performance increase exponentially as your employee’s personal development and ability to self-manage their own mental health grows.

For more information about our Mental Health services, or to find out how we can help you or your business please feel free to contact us by clicking on this link.

Graham

Graham Parish is an experienced Mind Management Specialist. He enjoys working with companies, SME businesses, individuals, coaches, leaders, groups and organisations to help them exceed their expectations. helping them to unlock their real potential, and gain unshakeable confidence even under the most severe pressure.

Leave a Comment





NHS Managers play a key role in Mental Health

Today’s post is about bullying and the total disregard for the staff’s Mental Health & Wellbeing in the NHS. It has been written by a former employee, whose identity we are not disclosing, to bring to light the need for a change in mental health policy and the attitude of management in the NHS.

This is Susan’s Story

I worked in an NHS hospital library for 16 years. My problem started after I had been there for about a year. The librarian had left and it took more than six months for them to recruit a replacement. In the meantime, my colleague and I were given extra tasks.

Once the new librarian started, I think I relaxed but developed chronic insomnia. I couldn’t sleep at all. The doctor wasn’t much help because when I asked for sleeping tablets, he said I could only have one course because they are addictive.

Because I was so exhausted, I took some sick leave

Not chunks, but a day or two here and there. I didn’t feel that I could take more than that because whenever I rang in sick the librarian huffed and asked if I would be in tomorrow. I was sent to Occupational Health where I was given the impression that my sick record was a bad as anyone in the Trust.

They recommended counseling and relaxation classes but in the end, it was hypnotherapy that got me sleeping again. I settled, but during another stressful time, I had another similar bout of insomnia and again had to go to Occupational Health.

What was interesting was that after the second visit to Occupational Health I heard about another member of staff who was off sick with stress, for three months. So I saw the whole picture and realised that I had taken a small amount of sick leave compared to other people.

Over the following years, I still had a ‘comparatively speaking’ small amount of sick leave each year. Some were anxiety based. But as more staff moved into the building, at the last count there were 35 members of staff working in there, some of it was down to what I called the Departmental Cold. When someone caught a cold or flu they still went to work, so the whole department went down with it.

My colleague was asthmatic and regularly got a chest infection when she caught a cold. My cold usually turned chesty, so I was coughing all night. As I had a “sick record”, I didn’t feel I could take much time off unless I felt really bad. On a couple of occasions, the librarian said that she didn’t care how much I was coughing as long as I was at my desk. Then I was told off for any sick leave that I did take.

Things took a final downturn in 2015

My husband had lost his Mum and two favourite aunts in the space of 9 months. They had been taken to my hospital and treated there. So I was very close to the situation as I worked there. Other family members worked away from healthcare.

It was very different the way the situation was handled by other workplaces. My husband works for a small company and was told to take as much time as he needed to, there was a more to life than work attitude. When I phoned in to say someone else had died, I got “Oh, will you be back tomorrow.”

Then things got worse

Next, his elderly father had a minor stroke, which affected his memory, and was diagnosed with Dementia. He was ok for a while then started having panicky episodes where he would phone for help and be taken to A&E Dept in an ambulance, at least once a week. Once there the panic would disappear and we would find him smiling at us and wanting to know when he could go home. It was an emotional rollercoaster. Unfortunately working at the hospital, seeing doctors and nurses every day and sitting in the library looking at book titles such as Bereavement, Stroke and Dementia sent me rather peculiar. So I had some more sick leave. Again, not much, but it did go up.

Management decided I was having too much sick leave. So I was first sent to Occupational Health where the nurse said that I hadn’t had that much compared to others, and it was understandable under the circumstances.

Next HR got involved and I had to attend meetings about my sick leave

At the first one, I was told that I had to go a month without any sick days. I managed that, just, but at the next meeting, I was told that I had to go two months without any sick days. This was when my Father in Law was really being unwell. My anxiety increased and I had quite a few days off. I worried about not being allowed to be off, so I ended up in a downward spiral.

At one point I told the librarian that I didn’t think I could carry on working there. She met me for a cup of tea and said I was a very valuable member of staff. Sadly she couldn’t put a stop to the HR situation. She also handed me a letter from HR which stated that after the two months sick free it was expected that I would have no sick days for the next 12 months. I did return to work for a few weeks but with Dad still being so unwell and knowing that I would be in serious trouble because of the sick days that I had taken, I was now seriously anxious.

The last straw

The last straw came when one morning I was given a batch of online articles to find about Stroke victims having mobility problems. After lunch, I had a major panic attack and left the library in tears. I phoned up the next day and told the librarian that I could no longer work there. She was very upset about it.

I think the situation was out of her hands. The driving force was our Senior Manager, who ironically had a far worse sick record than I did. At the first HR meeting, I was told about how many days I had been off in the previous 5 years. At the time I thought that this manager must have had at least ten times that many. Also, since leaving I have heard via several different ex-colleagues that this manager has had months and months of sick leave, over and over again and nothing is said to her. Her duties are covered by other managers. I felt very upset about hearing that.

The situation is still ongoing

A year later another of my colleagues also left the hospital in disgust, after working there for 22 years. She was also being bullied by the Senior Manager and another manager. She is a bubbly person but ended up with depression. She had also suffered family bereavements in the past, including her husband. She was off a short time afterward but was contacted by another manager who persuaded her to return to work before she was ready. Her sister was also told off by HR when she took 2 weeks sick leave after their mother died because she was in shock. And she is still being told off about it several years later.

Because of this attitude, the hospital is losing vital staff

The nurses there don’t feel valued and are told that if they aren’t happy they can leave and will be replaced. Except the hospital now has a reputation for widespread bullying and are having difficulty recruiting doctors and nurses. The result is that the hospital has had an Inadequate CQC report for two years running and have also been in Special Measures for two years, which means there is an unsafe level of staff for patient care.

I read that recently an outside union sent representatives to the hospital to offer advice and hand out leaflets about how to handle bullying. HR asked them to leave, and Police were called. The main cause of sick leave in the hospital is now Stress, Anxiety, and Depression. It really is shocking, especially as the place is a hospital, supposedly looking after patients.

What The Mental Health Initiative do…

The Mental Health Initiative is a not for profit organisation and works with the general public, in business and education, to help people self manage stress, anxiety, and anxiety related depression.

We help people to self manage their Mental Health with training, coaching, and mentoring, in all types of community, professional and high-performance environments.

Many years of experience have taught us that an organisation is only as good as its management and staff, so we put people first. Helping people to self-manage their Mental Health benefits both them and their company. We have found time and time again that productivity and performance increase exponentially as your employee’s personal development and ability to self-manage their own mental health grows.

For more information about our Mental Health services, or to find out how we can help you or your business please feel free to contact us by clicking on this link.

Graham

Graham Parish is an experienced Mind Management Specialist. He enjoys working with companies, SME businesses, individuals, coaches, leaders, groups and organisations to help them exceed their expectations. helping them to unlock their real potential, and gain unshakeable confidence even under the most severe pressure.

Leave a Comment