Published: 02/12/2004, Volume II4, No. 5934 Page 40

In the 17 months since I set up www. suspension-nhs. org, I have been contacted by 64 nurses or midwives who believe they need support following unnecessary or unjust suspensions from the NHS. Their stories detail very traumatic experiences that will clearly have long-term effects on their careers and lives.

Health minister John Hutton, in his response to the report Suspension Failure in the NHS, observed that procedures for doctors and dentists, based on ACAS best practice, can be adapted for other staff.

But ACAS best practice is not happening for the victims of poor management decisions or false allegations, particularly relating to bullying. Neither are managers paying attention to the incident decision tree of the National Patient Safety Agency, charged with changing the culture of blame to a search for systems failure.

The NPSA recently invited chief executives to conduct a cultural survey of their organisations. but what models are there for them to follow? If they themselves are the cause of the bullying and suspension culture, the cultural survey will be dead in the water.

Some good news - one area of good practice is South Birmingham primary care trust's Raising Awareness in Service Excellence programme. It relies on supporting staff using mediation skills to prevent problems and resolve issues. There are several facilitators throughout the PCT who support staff to deal with difficult situations. It is producing results because it has the support of the chairman, chief executive and PCT managers.

Julie Fagan is a health visitor and author of Suspension Failure in the NHS, available from www. suspension-nhs. org.