09.08.18

Nurse who committed suicide after dismissal was ‘treated unfairly’ by trust managers

An independent review into a London NHS trust’s dismissal of a nurse who went on to take his own life found that he was treated unfairly during his time at work.

Amin Abdullah set himself on fire outside Kensington Palace in February 2016 after being fired for signing a petition backing a colleague after a patient complaint. He wrote a letter for the colleague in which he labelled the patient a “professional complainer” against healthcare staff, and was sacked in December 2015 for composing an “untrue letter” and not using the appropriate complaints procedure.

Police found Abdullah on fire outside the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s residency two days before his appeal of the dismissal— but the review, ordered by former health minister Philip Dunne and released today, found Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust’s disciplinary procedures that led to his dismissal from Charing Cross Hospital were “weak and unfair.”

Although the chair and HR manager present at Abdullah’s hearing did not have all the information they needed available to them, consultancy firm Verita added, senior staff members “should have been more rigorous in their examination of the evidence.” The response written by the management team in response to Abdullah’s appeal was also “unduly harsh.”

The report highlighted poor practice from the trust, calling it “troubling” that there was a three-month delay between the events of the letter and Abdullah’s employment hearing over the incident. Verita noted that the Imperial’s HR department were expected to be “more proactive” in managing the case.

Senior staff members were also criticised. The investigating officer who took on Abdullah’s case “repeatedly raised questions about nurse Abdullah’s honesty on the basis of little or no evidence,” the review highlighted.

Trust summary report is a ‘whitewash’

Discussing a separate report written by the trust last year, the independent review said: “The summary report the trust produced after the events was poor. In judging the work of most trust staff in this investigation we are aware that we are looking back with the knowledge of a tragic event which they could not foresee.

“The same is not true of the senior HR manager who wrote the summary report after nurse Abdullah’s death. The lack of a clear mandate made her task harder but the mistakes in her report are all to the benefit of the trust’s case.

“The summary report is a whitewash. It served to reassure the trust that it had handled the case with due care and attention. It failed to tell the trust what it needed to know. This is regrettable and did a disservice to the trust.”

Verita called on Imperial to take active steps to support staff going through a disciplinary process. It argued that management responses to appeal letters “should not be overtly defensive” and should allow for the fact that evidence is open to different interpretations.

The chief executive of the trust, Professor Tim Orchard, said: “This has been a thorough and fair investigation and we accept all of its findings and recommendations. Above all else, it is now clear that we let Amin down and, for that, we are truly sorry.”

Prof Orchard noted that the trust has now introduced a new checkpoint involving an independent senior staff member to assess whether or not to move on to formal proceedings.

He added: “I very much regret that Amin is not here to be offered an apology for the mistakes that we made and a personal commitment from me that we will act on all of the learning from his case. I have offered that apology and commitment to Amin’s partner. I have also offered a further apology to the patient caught up in this review.”

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Image credit: Fiona Hanson/PA Archive

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