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Mental health nurse took her own life after being 'bullied' at work

Court told that Rhian Collins was verbally abused by staff at Swansea's Cefn Coed Hospital who made her life 'very difficult'

Court told that Rhian Collins was verbally abused by staff at Swansea's Cefn Coed Hospital who made her life 'very difficult'

Rhian Collins
Nurse Rhian Collins.
Picture: Wales News Service

A mental health nurse died by suicide after alleging she was 'bullied, sworn at and given the worst night shifts' at her NHS hospital, an inquest heard.

Rhian Collins who worked at Swansea's Cefn Coed Hospital was found dead at her home in March.

Need help?

  • For help in dealing with suicidal thoughts contact the Samaritans free to call helpline 116 123 or visit the NHS's Help for Suicidal Thoughts
  • If you are a nurse or nursing student experiencing a mental health concern, you can contact the RCN's confidential counselling service on 0345 772 6100

On Thursday, the coroner ruled she had taken her own life.

The inquest in Swansea heard that she told her family how colleagues would verbally abuse her and make her life at the hospital 'very difficult'.

Unacceptable behaviour

The Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board (ABMU), which runs the mental health hospital, said bullying behaviour 'of any kind' was unacceptable.

At the inquest, investigating officer Sgt Nia Lambley said that the mother-of-two had been 'having issues at work'.

'She was being sworn at, bullied and believed she was continually given the worst shifts on the ward,' Sgt Lambley said.

'This led to her becoming obsessed with her appearance.'

'Run down and exhausted'

The inquest heard family members said Ms Collins appeared 'run down and exhausted' just a month before she took her own life in March this year.

She began going to the gym four times a day, taking slimming pills and became distant from her family, the inquest heard.

Ms Collins' fiancé David Reed said she had threatened suicide 'many times', but the threats were dismissed as throwaway comments after arguments.

Her family told police she had struggled to cope with 'stress and unsociable hours' while working at the mental health hospital.

Mr Reed found Miss Collins' body in her home in Swansea.

No suspicious circumstances

Acting senior coroner Colin Phillips said: 'There was no third-party involvement and no suspicious circumstances.

'From the evidence, I conclude that she intended to kill herself.'

ABMU director of workforce and organisational development Hazel Robinson said: 'Our hearts go out to Rhian’s family, and we offer our sincere condolences for their very sad loss.

'We would like to make it clear that bullying behaviour of any kind is not acceptable.

'We need to fully understand the issues raised during the inquest into her tragic death, and invite her family to meet with us as soon as they can to explore these further.'

RCN backs anti-bullying campaign

In a separate announcement today, the RCN warned bullying was 'corrosive' and announced it was supporting the anti-bullying in healthcare campaign set up by the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh (RSCed).

RCSEd president Michael Lavelle-Jones said the organisation was 'delighted' the RCN had backed its campaign.

Professor Lavelle-Jones said: 'Bullying and undermining affect all parts of the NHS workforce regardless of grade, seniority and experience.

'Around one quarter of all NHS workers experienced harassment, bullying or abuse from staff in the past 12 months, so change will only come through collaborative and coordinated action.'

'Corrosive effect'

RCN director of nursing policy and practice Donna Kinnair said: 'Bullying and harassment not only have a corrosive effect on the morale of individual staff, but directly impact safe and effective patient care.

'Working as a team is one of the most important aspects of ensuring the best outcome for patients.

'Any behaviour that undermines or compromises this must not be tolerated.'

If you or anyone you know have been affected by the issues in this story, call Samaritans on 116 123. The line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Risk of suicide 

Female nurses have a higher risk of suicide compared to some other occupations, according to an Office for National Statistics (ONS) study in 2017.

The ONS study found that the risk of suicide among female nurses was 23% higher than the national average, with the risk of suicide among female health professionals 24% higher.

Two other British research studies show nursing carries a higher suicide risk than many other occupations – underlining the potential vulnerability of nurses to serious mental health issues with devastating consequences.

Public Health England, the Samaritans and charity Business in the Community joined forces last year to produce toolkits for employers prevent suicide, including mental health first aid training and suicide awareness for managers.

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