NHS disciplinary processes

Narinder Kapur writes.

I would like to draw attention to the publication of the report of an independent inquiry into the suicide of an award-winning nurse, Amin Abdullah. He burnt himself to death outside Kensington Palace in February 2016 after going through a disciplinary process such as I went through at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge in 2010. These processes are available for managers to use against clinical psychologists and other non-medical staff, without any of the safeguards available for doctors. The inquiry report and a YouTube video Amin Abdullah’s story is available at www.abetternhs.com.

Along with Amin Abdullah’s partner I had the privilege of being on the Stakeholder Panel which commissioned and facilitated the independent inquiry. The inquiry report vindicates concerns I have raised since 2010 about NHS management procedures. My protests over the years fell on deaf ears, and if they had been listened to, Amin could still be alive today. In an article in the Sunday Telegraph in May 2013, I described how I myself was almost driven to suicide by the aftermath of my unfair dismissal in 2010, which was in the context of whistleblowing.

In a letter to The Times in April 2015, 50 leading doctors and clinicians asked for a complete overhaul of NHS disciplinary procedures, procedures which are often used to victimise and deter whistleblowers. We were ignored. This is the culture that remains in the NHS.

Shame on NHS bodies and the government for ignoring my case and similar cases, for not showing us compassion and for not responding to concerns that were repeatedly raised by me and by others. Should the BPS, and in particular the Division of Clinical Psychology and the Division of Neuropsychology, take action to prevent other clinical psychologists suffering what I suffered, or should it continue to claim that it is outside its remit and show the ‘bystander effect’, which I have described in articles in The Psychologist (January 2014, May 2017)? On occasions the ‘culprits’ in management failures are in fact also psychologists who find themselves in management positions and who are not trained in areas such as preventing unconscious bias or who do not see the need to have external expert input when making major decisions about staff.

NHS Improvement and the Department of Health & Social Care have now set up a panel to review the implications of the report for the wider NHS and to consider changes to NHS management procedures.

If there is a consultation as part of that review, I hope that the BPS and some of its membership will respond to it, but in the meantime I am happy to relay any comments sent to me.

Narinder Kapur
Visiting Professor of Neuropsychology
University College London

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