NEWS
17/12/2020 15:33 GMT | Updated 17/12/2020 15:37 GMT

NHS Boss Criticised For Emailing Staff Member's Suicide Note To Entire Trust

Helen Greatorex apologises after sending note to 3,500 employees at Kent and Medway NHS Social Care and Partnership Trust.

Helen Greatorex/Twitter
Helen Greatorex, chief executive of Kent and Medway NHS Social Care and Partnership Trust

The leader of an NHS mental health trust has apologised after emailing a staff member’s handwritten suicide note to thousands of workers in a daily newsletter.

Helen Greatorex, chief executive of Kent and Medway NHS Social Care and Partnership Trust, included a copy of the note left by the named colleague in her email to staff on Tuesday.

Greatorex mentioned the death in the “daily message” after she had referred to “ten more sleeps until Christmas!” and having seen a “beautiful lesser spotted woodpecker” earlier in the day.

A member of staff told HuffPost UK that attaching the letter to an email had caused “absolute outrage in the organisation”.

They said: “Many people have never seen a suicide note and this was circulated to over 3,000 members of staff.

“The chief executive was warned only a few weeks ago at an engagement event called ‘the big conversation’ that she was out of touch. This, however, is not just further evidence she is out of touch – but dangerous and insensitive.”

When reached for comment, Greatorex said she was “sincerely sorry” if her actions had offended anyone and that she had shared the letter with the permission of the author’s mother.

In the original email, she writes: “In the meantime, I am going to appendix to this daily message, an open letter that [the staff member] left for us all to read. It is a heartfelt and important letter from someone who felt that they could not go on. I think it was an enormously kind and thoughtful act on [the man]’s part to leave it for all those who knew and loved him and his dear mum, [the man’s mother’s name], has given me permission to share it with all of you.

“It is a very sad letter to read, but it is also something that I think offers us some comfort. [The man] had made a decision, he had a very strong Christian faith and he knew with certainty that he was going home at last.”

Earlier in the email, she refers to being “at this point in December when I start losing the thread of what day of the week it is”. “But this year, thanks to my daily reality orientation exercise of writing the daily message, I’m all over it! It’s Tuesday and there are ten more sleeps until Christmas!”

The email also mentions upcoming Christmas events and urges staff to “let us know what makes you smile these days other than rainbows of course!”

In a statement released by the Kent and Medway NHS Social Care and Partnership Trust, Greatorex said: ”[The staff member] was a very well-known and highly regarded colleague whose suicide touched very many people both in our trust and beyond it. I am truly and sincerely sorry if by sharing [his] open letter I have offended or upset anyone. That was absolutely not my intention.

“I apologise personally and unreservedly and as always, would be happy to talk to any of my staff who are upset or have concerns about this or any other issue.”

She added the letter had been read out during the colleague’s funeral earlier this week.

“Many of our staff and friends of the organisation had joined the funeral remotely and many, myself included had found [his] letter comforting. It was clear from the letter that [he] wanted to help others understand that [he was] thankful for all that had been done for [him], which was exactly how [he] was, always thinking of others.

[His] mother kindly offered to share [his] open letter with us and because so many people had felt that hearing it had helped them, and with [his] mother’s permission, I took the decision to share it as part of my regular staff update as a support to many of [his] colleagues and friends in our trust who are grieving.”

Useful websites and helplines

Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.

Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).

CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) offer a helpline open 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year, on 0800 58 58 58, and a webchat service.

The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email help@themix.org.uk

Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on rethink.org.