Sackings after abuse of elderly

The personnel director of North
Lakeland Healthcare NHS Trust has been sacked along with other senior staff for
management failures which led to abuse of elderly patients at a former hospital
in Carlisle.

Catherine McCreadie, the personnel
director, along with trust chairwoman Mary Styth and chief executive Alan Place
lost their jobs after an eight-month investigation into the trust.

A report from the Commission for
Health Improvement published last week criticised managers for "an absence
of effective and corporate management and clinical governance, a whole systems
failure."

Staff said McCreadie "was able
to dictate staffing levels and the skills mix of staff without reference to
clinical advice" and there was "no adequate system for identifying
and prioritising clinical staff training and education needs". Both
McCreadie and Place can appeal against their dismissal.

The trust introduced a
whistleblowing policy three years after the first complaints surfaced, but the
report found that despite this staff were pilloried by others after they raised
concerns about the abuse of elderly patients (see box).

Some bad practices were so
institutionalised they had become the norm, and at least one employee who
received a warning of abuse of patients said they thought the Sister’s word was
law.

The trust was described as
"physically, emotionally and educationally isolated" and
"inward-looking, unresponsive and even secretive".

Acting chief executive Nigel
Woodcock said, "Major steps have already been taken to improve management
arrangements as well as the culture of the trust to ensure the quality of
patient care is of a consistently high standard."

Lessons on blowing the whistle at
work

The Commission for Health
Improvement has recommended that North Lakeland Healthcare NHS staff be trained
in the whistleblower policy introduced in 1999. It said, "Disciplining or
victimisation of anyone making allegations of malpractice in good faith would
constitute a disciplinary offence and be treated accordingly."

Student nurses first complained
about patients being tied to commodes at the hospital in 1996 but the
complaints were not acted on. Two years later, two nurses reported that
patients were being deprived of clothing, blankets and ordinary food and fed
while sitting on commodes. A year later the whistleblower policy was introduced
by the trust but it failed to prevent scapegoating.

Public Concern at Work runs a free
helpline for whistleblowers on 020-7404 6609 www.pcaw.co.uk

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