'The perpetrator frequently gets promoted' in HSE bullying claims

'Staff are dissuaded from following it through - you are made to feel guilty in doing it'
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

18.58 8 Feb 2023

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'The perpetrator frequently ge...

'The perpetrator frequently gets promoted' in HSE bullying claims

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

18.58 8 Feb 2023

Share this article

A clinical therapy manager in the HSE, who was warned she would be 'stood down' if she did not give in to demands, has said perpetrators of bullying are often promoted.

Olivia was speaking as nursing unions warned that the health service “can’t be trusted” to police bullying – and are calling for health and safety officers to be drafted in.

A special Oireachtas Health Committee meeting was held earlier to discuss the health, safety and wellbeing of Ireland’s frontline health workers.


The meeting was called after Lunchtime Live highlighted widespread claims of bullying within the HSE.

Olivia said was asked to redeploy clinical staff to administrative roles "which would compromise their duty of care to their pediatric and adult clients."

"I was told if I refused to accede to what was a totally unreasonable, clinically unjustifiable ask... I would be stood down," she told Lunchtime Live.

She said she then took a grievance against the individual, which resulted in their 'failure to recollect' the conversation.

She said she does not think anything will really change.

"Absolutely not - there was no desire for change to happen," she said.

"The perpetrator frequently gets promoted - and I've seen this in my own area.

"The person who brings the complaint is seen as a disruptor or being off-message, or simply not accepting the culture.

"It has actually become worse.

"I think increasingly... the clinical voice is disrespected by the bureaucratic structures of the HSE."

'Made to feel guilty'

Olivia said mandatory training is "utterly meaningless" for this.

"You can see they flout those rules continuously, they don't even obey their own policies," she said.

She said current procedures to deal with staff grievances are "totally not fit for purpose."

"In fact staff are dissuaded from following it through because we all know it's such an onerous task, and you are made to feel guilty in doing it.

"I myself was told 'It's very rare that a manager brings a grievance against anybody'.

"That was suggesting that I was doing something wrong.

"It's wonderful that all of our contributions have resulted in the Oireachtas Health Committee listening to us, and listening to the people that represent us.

"But I would have very little confidence that it would change: the culture is engrained in the workings of the HSE.

"I really don't know what it would take to change it," she added.

'It started to take it's toll'

Una is a member of clerical staff in the HSE. She said she was recently brought before HR for the first time in two decades.

"In the last four years there has been a campaign by some people I work with to constructively dismiss me," she said.

"It took me a while to realise what was going on.

"I came to the attention of HR for the first time in 22 years four years ago; they didn't know of my existence up till then.

"I was being told 'I did this, I did that' - I couldn't blink crooked, but I was jumped on by - mainly - two people in the department [and] sometimes a third party.

"It started to take its toll, I became extremely anxious.

"It had been going on by one person for a long time; but then she gained two allies, which gave her strength in numbers."

'Waiting for a tap on the shoulder'

Una said she did not realise how unhappy she was.

"It just affected every aspect of my life," she said.

"I lost confidence, I became very nervous: to this day... I have the constant feeling that I have done something wrong.

"I've had a bit of time to think, because I've been out because of anxiety, I'm realising because I'm not in the job how much calmer and happier I am in myself.

"I'm returning to the happy me that I used to be; I didn't realise how unhappy I was until I stayed away from the job.

"It becomes normal, you're constantly waiting for a tap on the shoulder to be called in to be asked: 'Did you say this, did you say that?'

"I was being watched constantly, and it's a horrible, horrible feeling".

 'Plenty more like me'

Una said she was told not to talk to people on the phone.

"You start out your day happy, and then it can be just snatched from under you," she said.

"I remember one day being asked 'What was I saying to someone on the phone?' - it happened that I knew the person.

"I'm a very friendly, chatty person - I was told that I wasn't to talk.

"I explained that I didn't start up conversations, that people started them with me.

"Sometimes people are lonely, I might be the only person they speak to so I always gave people time when I could.

"I just thought: 'What's wrong with giving a few moments to someone out of your day?' - I was told I wasn't to do that".

A nurse washing her hands leaving a room of a COVID hospital unit. A nurse washing her hands leaving a room of a COVID hospital unit. Picture by: Phanie / Alamy Stock Photo

Una said she felt she was not supported "from anywhere."

"I know there's plenty more like me".

She said any mandatory training "has to start with management."

"I've been to loads of mandatory training, and it's all just box ticking.

"Nothing is followed through, it's all just tick the box," she added.

Listen back to the full segment here:

Main image: A nurse looking stressed while sitting on a staircase. Picture by: Panther Media GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

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