Disciplinary Issues

NHS Trusts in general tend to have good, well-established disciplinary policies. How they are applied, however, varies enormously from Trust to Trust and from manager to manager.

We’re seeing a hike in the number of formal disciplinary cases and suspensions – some of this is due to heightened vigilance regarding neglect (which is understandable), but a lot is due to inexperienced middle and senior management making poor judgements. So, just like a Consultant Doctor has the experience to make the right judgements about patient discharge and hence is able to effectively free up beds, so too are good, experienced managers able to make sound judgements about when to sort something out informally and when to push things down a formal route. Doesn’t always happen though, does it? Depends who you get….

Whether you face inappropriately applied disciplinary proceedings or whether you are in trouble because you genuinely made a mistake, whether you face proceedings because you have been told your performance is not up to scratch or because you have been absent, we will do everything we can to ensure you are treated absolutely fairly with a view to the most positive outcome for you. We will be thorough and if necessary, robust on your behalf.

What to do if you’re suspended

Although suspension is not disciplinary action, it is very often the forerunner to a formal investigation that leads to disciplinary action. It is very important that you have good advice and support right from the start. You may find yourself being questioned about an incident during a meeting at which you are suspended. Unless you need to give your employer vital information about a problem with patient care that needs to be rectified straight away, you should not enter into any discussion with your employer until you have spoken to an IDU official.
So, if you are suspended:
Ring the IDU office as soon as you can.
Do not give a verbal or written statement or enter into dialogue about the matter in question unless you have spoken to us first – unless there is an emergency.  Before your memory fades, write a private account of events with as much detail as possible – this is essential preparation for your meeting with us to discuss where to go from here.
Try to stay calm. We will thoroughly support you through whatever processes you face.

Investigations – Golden Rules

As a health worker, there could be a variety of reasons why you may be involved in an investigation and asked to write a witness statement. This can be a daunting experience. Worrying about writing a statement is the most common issue our members raise with us.
A witness statement is a written account of events. Its purpose is to provide information during an investigation. It is important to remember that a witness statement is a formal document. It may be used as evidence during any hearing, whether that is an internal disciplinary hearing, or externally at an employment tribunal or at a fitness to practise hearing with a regulatory body (the NMC, for example).

You must always give a truthful and accurate account of the events.

Some reasons a witness statement may be requested:

  • If a patient makes a complaint, as part of the investigation into it, you and other members of staff involved in the patient’s care may each be asked to provide a witness statement.
  • If a patient, service user or resident has either been hurt or their condition has seriously deteriorated unexpectedly or something else has occurred that was not expected. This may include ‘Serious Untoward Incidents’ – often abbreviated to SUI. Again, staff involved in the patient’s care may be asked to write a statement.
  • If either you or any of your colleagues are involved in a grievance. This could be (a) because you raised a grievance or (b) someone raised a grievance against you or (c) a grievance is raised by one colleague against another and your views are needed.
  • If you or any of your colleagues are subject to an investigation which may lead to disciplinary action. This may happen following an allegation of misconduct, for instance.

To help with writing a statement, we have listed some golden rules below that should be followed if you are asked to write one:

Disciplinary Issues

Always get advice from your IDU representative if you are asked to make a statement and ensure they read it before it is submitted to your manager or the investigating manager.
A witness statement is a formal document. It must be legible and easy to read. Write clearly and keep your sentences short. Always keep a copy of your statement in a safe place and ensure that your IDU representative also has a copy.
To reiterate - a witness statement is a formal document. It is important that you always act with integrity, not least because health workers are employed in public service. It is also worth emphasising that your statement may later be submitted as evidence in court, such as in an employment tribunal. If you attend as a witness at an employment tribunal, either as part of somebody else’s case or because you have brought proceedings against your employer, you will be required to give evidence under oath. It will be detrimental to the case if you are shown to have not told the truth in your original statement.
Building on the above - statements are sought to establish the facts. They should be about what you saw and what you know took place. They are not about what someone else told you happened or about speculation. If you do feel that recounting what someone else told you is relevant, make sure you clearly state that this is what you were told and by whom rather than what you actually saw or experienced yourself.
If you have to write a statement about someone who has been in your care, you can ask to see the notes or documents to remind you of any involvement you had. However, you must differentiate between the facts written in the notes and documents and your own recollection – Remember Golden Rules 3 and 4.
Take your time to write it. Sometimes employers will tell you that they need it within a short, specific period of time. Whilst it is important that you co-operate with your employer, the time given for you to write and submit a statement should be reasonable and allow you to get it right. If you feel you are being pressured, contact your IDU representative. We will contact the employer and ensure you get reasonable time to submit your statement. Do not submit a statement unless you are happy with its content and accuracy and your IDU representative has seen it first. Furthermore, no one should change your statement but you.
  • Be clear about why you have been asked to write a statement. Do not assume you know the reason and, if in doubt, speak to the person who has asked you to write it.
  • Any request for a written statement or report is usually part of a management investigation and it should be made formally by your manager or by a person your manager has authorised to obtain a statement from you. The reason for the statement should be explained to you. Once you have found out the reason you should then speak to your IDU representative and seek appropriate advice - remember Golden Rule 1. Also, beware of giving a verbal statement.
  • There may be times, however, that a colleague asks you to write a statement regarding a particular issue. If this happens, you must contact your IDU representative before agreeing to do this.
  • Irrespective of the reason for writing statements, please ask your IDU representative to check yours before you submit it. They are used to this process and are a valuable source of support and advice.
  • It can be upsetting to write a statement so as we have said, take your time. If you become upset, put the statement to one side and come back to it. It is easier to write an objective record if your mind is clear. Take yourself somewhere quiet to write it where you will not be disturbed.
  • You may be asked to write a statement some time after the event has passed. Remember, if it is about a patient, client or service user, you can always look at the notes to help your recollection and see what involvement, if any, you had in their care – remember Golden Rules 3 and 4.
  • If you cannot remember everything that happened and the notes or records do not help you, you can still write a statement. You should say that you do not recall the event but explain what your normal practice might be and that you do not believe you would have departed from this – remember Golden rules 3 and 4.