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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 January 2007, 11:03 GMT
'Too many' NHS staff suspensions
Nurses
The support group said hundreds of NHS staff in Scotland were affected
Scottish health boards have been accused of suspending too many members of staff.

A support group for health workers said suspensions were often used when there was no threat to patient safety.

The Campaign Against Unnecessary Suspensions and Exclusions (Cause) said hundreds of staff members in Scotland were being suspended.

It said many were for spurious reasons. The Scottish Executive said the measure was only used in certain circumstances.

Cause has called for tighter regulations to protect both patients and staff.

Neither I nor anyone else is saying that suspensions shouldn't happen, but they should only happen for serious reasons
Kate Wynn
Cause member

The group claimed suspensions were sometimes used as a way of bullying or intimidating employees.

Three years ago, Dr Terence Hope was suspended from Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre for taking an extra bowl of soup and croutons without paying.

Campaigners said staff were sometimes excluded on trumped-up charges because they had raised concerns about health and safety or because they were being bullied by managers.

The support group said suspensions should only be used as a last resort and when there was a question of patient safety.

Court settlement

One nurse, who wanted only to be known as Christine, had been nursing for 20 years when she was asked to go on leave after speaking out in support of a colleague who was being bullied.

She told BBC Scotland: "I know two people at the moment, one's been suspended for three years and one's been suspended for three months and this is for raising concerns about care of the elderly."

Christine took legal action against her health board and was offered a substantial out-of-court settlement.

Cause said suspensions were a valid tool to protect patient safety, but could be open to abuse.

I haven't had people from the council, the police, or any other sector coming to me with these complaints
Mary Scanlon
Former MSP

Kate Wynn, a member of Cause, was suspended on allegations of bullying after a 29-year career, before being fully reinstated after eight months.

She said: "It damages your health, it knocks your confidence, it damages your self esteem.

"Other people have much worse experiences than that, it's quite often people are reported to be suicidal.

"Neither I nor anyone else is saying that suspensions shouldn't happen, but they should only happen for serious reasons."

There are no official Scottish Executive figures on suspensions or the cost of suspensions.

However, former MSP Mary Scanlon has obtained figures showing that in six out of Scotland's 14 health board areas, about 200 staff have been suspended in the past two years.

"These are people who are dedicated, trained, experienced and committed to the NHS," she said.

"I haven't had people from the council, the police, or any other sector coming to me with these complaints."

The executive said NHS employers should ensure careful consideration is given to suspended staff and that suspension is only used in certain circumstances.


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