Manchester nurses strike for Karen Reissman

Manchester mental health workers demonstrate against privatisation, March 2007. Photo: Pia Feig
Manchester mental health workers demonstrate against privatisation, March 2007. Photo: Pia Feig

Nurses today began a rolling strike after their union leader was sacked for speaking to the media.

Submitted by Ed on November 10, 2007

More than 150 staff, who care for 1,000 seriously-ill psychiatric patients, are on picket lines across Manchester and say they will not return to work until senior nurse Karen Reissmann is reinstated.

The strike follows the decision of Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust bosses to sack Ms Reissmann on Monday.

She worked in the city's health services for more than 20 years and was promoted to specialist practitioner, the most senior nursing post under management, on the same day she was suspended for bringing the trust's reputation into disrepute. The walkout by Unison staff follows 14 days of industrial action over the summer.

Ms Reissmann, who was at one of four picket lines outside trust sites across the city, said: "People feel angry they have to be taking this stand, they are angry they have been put in this position and they are angry I have been sacked for speaking out. But they are determined to do this, to ensure I am reinstated."

Ms Reissmann, from Hulme, is an outspoken critic of NHS cuts and privatisation of services.



15 years 7 months ago

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Submitted by Alice on November 19, 2008

I am writing because I have read with interest about Karen Reissman and the fact that UNISON have dropped her.

I was suspended from my duties as a staff nurse in 2006 without being
told why. I had a completely unblemished record with the NHS with one
annual appraisal given to me in the whole time I was with the NHS. I
was not offered representation on the day of my suspension but did get
it before going into the room with my bullies. I was not told what the
allegations were despite UNISON asking my boss if they could elaborate.
I found out the next day a complaint had come from a patient. The
complaint was specious with no detail and it had been taken without the
patient's capacity being ascertained and with no significant other
present as per PoVA guidelines. This patient has a history of complaints.
In fact there is no evidence that this
patient was interviewed at all. The only signatures on the
documentation are from the individuals who I know wanted me gone
because I spoke out about poor standards of care.

I informed my Union (UNISON) that I was in contact with a solicitor
and they said they could not represent me if that was the case and I
had a choice to make. I chose my solicitor because I know of at least
two colleagues who were dropped from their own Unions (RCN and UNISON,
both attached to the organisation) just prior to their cases being
heard at an employment tribunal, therefore had no way of knowing that the same would be done to myself. Both of my colleagues were within the same
organisation as myself. It seems that Karen Reissman is yet another
victim of this.

It took a further three months for the overstated allegations to be sent
to me by my organisation and they arrived at my door in the February,
March and April of 2007. I was shocked to find out that I had over six
years worth of allegations to answer to and was devastated as I did not
know these problems existed and had no way of remembering dates etc:,
therefore was not in a position to defend myself appropriately. I was also horrified at what I was being accused of and promptly vomited as soon as I started to read what my colleagues thought of me.

My colleagues had got together and fabricated a whole host of dreadful and
demonstrably false allegations against me.

I was offered representation through my solicitor, to attend meetings
with a private Union that I also had to pay. I was eventully dismissed
on four counts of alleged gross misconduct in the middle of 2008 after
two years of investigatory and disciplinary meetings. We obviously
appealed the decision, which was when my organisation stepped up their
threat levels to include words like "Abuse" towards vulnerable adults, Police and the Protection of Vulnerable Adults register.

We again, successfully got two of the four charges dropped due to the
fact that my colleagues gave inconsistent evidence and another
colleague blatantly lied in front of the Board. These people are still in
a job despite the organsations policy on giving false and misleading

I believe these are the reasons my colleagues and managers went "trawling for evidence against me".

That I reported poor care standards towards a terminally ill (elderly)
patient in August 2006 and I put in a formal complaint because my
sexuality had been disclosed to a patient outwith my knowledge and
consent in 2005. UNISON, in my opinion were only interested in
supporting the organisation as opposed to defending me. They knew what
kind of environment I was working in and did nothing other than pat me
on the head and offer me some lip service in the hope that I would go
away. Meetings we attended turned into a kangaroo court with me
continually being interrupted and not allowed to ask questions.

The same organisation (UNISON) is now supporting my former colleagues and I
now can no longer afford my solicitor. My union rep I fear is now going
to give me bad news at the end of this week and is now saying they do
not have the knowledge to continue on with me, despite them asking me in the beginning to trust them. I get the feeling that the NHS is just a big club who gang up on individuals who dare to speak up for patients.

I find it horrendous that the NHS can promote themselves to be fair and
impartial. Who say they look for system failures as opposed to
apportioning blame to any one individual and who promote themselves as a
transparent organisation. I won't go into thier logo "the caring profession" because none of the above is true and the managers
receive support regardless of their poor decision making, own misconduct
and errors in judgement.

They do not follow policy and procedure and rely on the fact that they have
tax payers money to waste in destroying people livelihood. I am now in
a position where I have to defend myself but have no means in which to
do so. I have been referred to the NMC on the original four charges,
despite the fact that the minimum referral guidelines have not been
met and despite the fact that two charges had been dropped. I have
also been told that my organisations PoVA department are looking into
making a referral to the PoVA register. I actually phoned my
organisation and asked to be put through to that department and was
told it did not exist and it is actually and individual who deals with
the elderly. The individual/s I suspect will probably be the
individuals responsible for this witch hunt against me.

People need to know that this is what goes on behind the doors of the NHS and
this why nurses are leaving in droves. Nursing is no longer about
taking care of patients. It's about meetings targets and cutting
budgets and for some reason it's the elderly in our care that suffer
the backlash. It's dreadful that Karen Reissman is going though this,
it's dreadful that Graham Pink went through this and it's still
happening to nurses. When is someone going to listen to what is
happening to us?