On June 15th psychiatric nurse Karen Reissmann was ordered off the premises and suspended in the middle of a delicate and difficult consultation with a patient. Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust charged her with ‘bringing the Trust into disrepute’. They seized her mobile. Patients are given the mobile number to ring in emergencies.
What Karen is guilty of is telling the truth. "What I’m guilty of is defending the National Health Service and its service for staff and patients, and I cannot stop doing it. I believe in the NHS, that’s why I want to work for it." she told the Manchester Evening News.
In November the Trust dismissed her, and 150 fellow community health workers in the Trust have all walked out on all-out strike in her support. They’d already been on strike for 14 days in protest at her suspension. They are likely to be followed soon by the entire 700 strong branch membership of Unison. Obviously Karen could take the Trust to a tribunal, but management knows a tribunal can’t demand her reinstatement. Management cannot be allowed to get away with this!
Why are they trying it on? The background to the dismissal is the management plan ‘Change in mind’. This puts more and more pressure on the workforce. Some are made to see 25 patients in the course of a week instead of 8. You do the maths. With travel, nurses are only spending about half an hour with each vulnerable patient and some are not being seen at all. Some wards with twenty beds are juggling patients so they can house twenty-four patients. Yet it is Karen who is ‘bringing the Trust into disrepute’. The same day she was suspended, Karen received a letter promoting her to senior psychiatric nurse. Even the Manchester Evening News can smell a rat there.
The Trust is running a deficit of around £2 million. The Manchester Trust is ranked 173rd of 175 mental health trusts. The government has put it on turnaround – made it implement cuts to you and me. Karen knows why. "The only way to tackle this and provide services is to stop overspending on expensive PFI projects, which have sent costs rocketing." She says PFI costs four times as much. Once again it is the Private Finance Initiative that is bleeding the health service to death.
Health workers have a right to speak out and we have a duty to support them when they speak out. Don’t let them sack Karen Reissmann!