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The NHS manager who sent THAT email? Here’s why I think he should keep his job

PUBLISHED: 12:18 28 January 2020 | UPDATED: 12:18 28 January 2020

Doreen Livermore's tragic death should have been the Trust's priority. They now need to prove that in future, it always will be, says Liz Nice. Photo: Archant

Doreen Livermore's tragic death should have been the Trust's priority. They now need to prove that in future, it always will be, says Liz Nice. Photo: Archant

Archant

It’s all too easy to get angry, blame someone and move on, says Liz Nice. But this is one time when it would actually be better to make the person who made the mistake be the one to put it right

We've all sent emails we have then regretted.

The snarky ones are the ones I regret most.

Having been on the receiving end of a few, I have stopped doing them now and I always call out anybody who does it to me! They usually back down then, having forgotten when they were sending it, I suspect, that there was a real person on the other end of the bile that, in a pre-digital world, they would once have kept to themselves.

Last week, NHS manager Mark Prentice had cause to regret his use of email when he accidentally sent my colleague at the Eastern Daily Press Steven Downes an email in which Prentice
expressed his relief that the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, of which he is communications manager, had 'got away' with coverage of the death of Doreen Livermore, an 88-year-old lady who died after breaking her hip in a King's Lynn care home when she was pushed over by a resident with dementia.

Prentice wrote that they seemed to have been 'saved' by the death of Terry Jones and that the trust had escaped 'virtually unscathed.'

His email made the national papers and one can only imagine the sinking feeling of dread he must have had ever since he realised that his private digital views were out there for all to see.

No doubt he will be required to apologise, and he certainly owes Mrs Livermore's family a heartfelt apology in my view, which could only begin to touch the surface of the pain they must be feeling. But let's not lose sight of the fact that these were his views, that there was a reason for those views, and that his inadvertent error has exposed something very helpful to us all. A culture within that NHS Trust which was more concerned with how they were perceived in the wider world than with the death of an elderly woman who was supposed to be in their care.

The trust's chief executive Jonathan Warren is investigating, which is vital because this represents an opportunity for that trust to make a real cultural change. For people to sit down and look at their priorities and hopefully recognise that nobody, I'm sure not Mr Prentice nor anybody who works there, really wants to live in a world where your public image is more important than somebody's life.

I've certainly worked in places in my time where I've realised that the person I am, and the things I value, are in danger of being sacrificed for that company's culture.

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In my early years, I thought 'that's just the way it is', but as I got older, and hopefully wiser, I realised that no job is worth becoming ashamed of yourself for. If you can't change it,
leave.

Though often you can, and you should always try. No one would be better placed to do that right now than Mark Prentice, having looked at what happened, and woken up to what his priorities had become, one would hope that he would work to ensure that the entire attitude of that organisation changed from hereon in. That would be the kindest thing to do on all levels, and begin to give some meaning and purpose to this horrible incident.

We are too quick to throw the baby out with the bathwater in these moments. When someone does something we find appalling, we immediately call for their heads, rather than asking why it happened, and giving the person who made the terrible error the chance to learn from it, help others from it, and maybe begin to start putting it right,

Meanwhile, in the US, a female journalist at The Washington Post has been suspended after tweeting a link to an article about Kobe Bryant's rape case in the immediate aftermath of his death at the weekend in a helicopter crash.

The journalist said she received death threats after doing so, when she had merely wished to make the point that, tragic as the basketball star's death was, he may not have been the saint his early death at 41 was inevitably going to turn him into,

This was her freely held view, yet, as things currently stand, her job appears to be under threat because a lot of people didn't like that view.

Once again, I would say, rather than charging in furiously because lots of people don't like what someone has to say, doesn't it make sense to explore why they think that. Have they themselves considered why they think that and see where to go from there?

When we silence people, get rid of them, we never give ourselves the chance to learn anything.

Personally, I think when something I write gets a big response, it is telling me that there is something important here that needs exploring further, not that I should shut up, and nor do I expect the people who are cross with me to shut up either.

Outrage might as well achieve something positive, surely, otherwise what is the point of it at all?

But I would also caution that anything we say online should only ever be something we would be prepared to say out loud and in public. Otherwise, it is as worthy as an anonymous letter, the only kind of opinion I always immediately consign to the bin.


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