'S*** stirrer' | Manager 'bullied & intimidated' whistleblower worker who raised safety concerns

Manager 'bullied & intimidated' whistleblower worker who raised safety concerns

A bully care home manager who called an employee a ‘s*** stirrer’ after raising safeguarding concerns has been struck off.

Deborah Cank failed to investigate safeguarding concerns about the treatment of residents, and ‘bullied & intimidated’ the colleague who raised the alarm, while she was the manager of Lakeside Nursing Home in Wigan. 

As first reported by Wigan Today, the allegations against Cank, who has been registered as a nurse since 1989, were first made in 2020. 

A hearing conducted by the Nursing and Midwifery Council found evidence proving six of the charges against Cank, while no evidence was offered on a further seven accusations.  

At the hearing, which Cank did not attend, it was alleged: “Various concerns arose between October 2019 – February 2020, including a failure to fulfil her legal requirement as Registered Manager, to notify the Care Quality Commission (‘CQC’) and the relevant authorities of residents deaths at the Home.  

“It is further alleged that Miss Cank acted dishonestly, had not investigated safeguarding concerns raised by a member of staff, and that she had bullied and/or intimidated colleagues at the Home.” 

It was also alleged that, after making a ‘medication error,’ Cank “attempted to influence a colleague to cover it up.” 

Another charge of particular note from an HR perspective, involved Cank failing to properly investigate a safeguarding concern raised by a colleague. 

The employee, known only as Colleague C in the report, had witnessed “two senior carers, allegedly taking a resident out of a wheelchair into an armchair using an inappropriate method.” 

However, after raising concerns about the matter to Cank, she later branded him a “s*** stirrer”. 

The panel found that this conduct was “intended to bully and/or intimidate Colleague C for having reported a safeguarding concern.” 

It was determined that Cank’s actions “were sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct”. 

The panel imposed a striking-off order and an 18-month interim suspension order, which will cover any period of appeals against the decision by Cank.  

Stacey Astin, regional manager of Millennium Care, which runs Lakeside Nursing Home, said: “At Millennium Care we pride ourselves on a robust track record supported by all of our Care Quality Commission key lines of enquiry being rated as outstanding and good through all of our homes. This is supported by both a strong governance process and systems that allow those to openly share their feedback. 

"In this instance, both had proven to be effective in identifying the practice of Deborah Cank that fell short of our high expectations. Action had been taken swiftly to remove her from our service and also our duty to notify the NMC of our concerns that were not aligned to our values. 

"We support the decision of the NMC from the hearing and hold in high regard the role they play in keeping those who need nursing care safe.” 

Workplace misconduct ‘rife but underreported’ 

New research shows that fears of possible retaliation and reliable process still hold many people back from reporting workplace misconduct. And with examples of the blowback against the care home employee in the case above, it’s easy to understand why these concerns exist. 

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However, more than half (52%) of employees say they’re now more aware of the importance of whistleblowing than before due to media reporting on high profile cases. 

That’s according to a recent survey of 2,000 employees commissioned by Personio, Europe’s leading HR software company for SMEs. 

With 43% of employees having seen or experienced some kind of inappropriate or illegal behaviour at work, the research reveals that workplace misconduct is common, and often unchecked. 

One in ten (10%) employees have witnessed or experienced sexual harassment at work, but nearly half (49%) of these did not report it. Similarly, almost one third (30%) have seen or experienced bullying at work, with 44% of these not reporting it. 

Culture 

The data points to the role that culture plays in creating a space where people feel they can safely report issues via the appropriate channels. 

43% of employees feel worried about retaliation or retribution if they were to report an issue, and only 56% of employees feel confident that sensitive workplace misconduct situations would be treated properly and fairly by their organisation. 

Trust in leadership 

Concerns are eased in organisations where people trust leadership to listen to and support them. Employees in higher trust organisations are more likely to have reported inappropriate or illegal behaviours (69%) compared to those that don't (58%). 

But, trust within organisations is clearly lacking. Only half (52%) of employees say they trust their senior leadership, and on the flip side, one in ten (10%) strongly distrust their leadership. Meanwhile, three in ten (30%) employees believe more would be achieved if they went to the media about workplace misconduct, rather than to their own management team. 

Crucially, putting in place anonymous ways to blow the whistle would also help ease employees’ fears. Nearly one in five (18%) don’t believe that their organisation would protect their anonymity if they reported workplace misconduct, and the same number (18%) do not feel there is an accessible or anonymous process in place at work to report misconduct. 

Speaking previously to HR Grapevine, Pete Cooper, Director of People Partners & DEI at Personio, commented: “The extent of workplace misconduct is worrying, and the rate at which these go unreported is even more so. It’s clear that having whistleblowing channels in place is only one small part of the puzzle to make workplaces safer. 

"A workplace culture that prioritises trust and transparency is critical. People need to understand that these reporting processes exist, feel safe using them, and have trust in their organisation to listen to and act on their concerns.” 

Cooper continued: “Whistleblowing carries a lot of stigma, but it shouldn’t. It’s about protecting people and businesses, which is incredibly important. And, as demonstrated in recent news stories, failing to appropriately report or manage reports of misconduct can result in extremely damaging consequences both on a personal level and for entire organisations. 

“Whilst the expected publication of the UK government’s review into whistleblowing frameworks will be a step in the right direction, it will not be a silver bullet or a quick fix. As well as leaning on government guidance and support, businesses should themselves work to build the kind of workplace culture that fosters employee trust and goes above and beyond to put their safety right at the heart of their organisation.” 



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