Jane Bates: Skewed system lets bullying flourish

Two topical stories highlight flaws in the way the NHS deals with complaints against staff

Two topical stories highlight the flaws in the way the NHS deals with complaints against staff 

Picture: iStock

Every now and then, news items running concurrently make you shake your head in wonder about the NHS and its split standards.

In August, common sense prevailed when it was reported that restrictions placed on nurse Sarah Kuteh by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) had been lifted and she was allowed to return to full practice.

Ms Kuteh lost her job in 2016 and was placed on a conditions of practice order by the NMC after talking to patients about her faith and giving one of them her bible.

A sense of proportion

I know it is considered politically incorrect these days to discuss matters of faith, particularly Christianity, if you are a public servant. But this was an act of kindness, for goodness sake – let’s get a sense of proportion here.

Later that month, there was the heartbreaking news about the nurse who took her own life because she was being bullied at work. Bullying is rife in the NHS – everyone knows it but it seems that little, if anything, is ever done, apart from ‘awareness’ training.

If bullies know they can harass and intimidate with impunity, why would they stop because of some statutory lip service? Nurses have been pushed around and browbeaten for as long as I can remember, from the Department of Health (now the Department of Health and Social Care) through all points downwards.

Cliques and hierarchies

Reporting intimidating behaviour rarely gets you anywhere, and we all know that nailing a bully is not straightforward. In an organisation like the NHS there are cliques and hierarchies that muddy the waters, but that is no excuse for not tackling the problem.

A Nursing Standard investigation recently revealed that one in four UK nursing students quit their university course before completing it. I am sure that the student attrition rate is partly attributable to bullying, and that it is also the reason why many other staff leave.

No one wants to admit to being a victim but maybe it is time for naming and shaming, and we need to do it ourselves.

Because the NHS – with its skewed values, where a nurse is sacked for sharing her bible but a blind eye is turned to the abuse that some staff have to endure – just doesn’t seem to get it.

Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire



More from Jane Bates

This article is for subscribers only