Mental health services in Manchester look set to be disrupted because of strike action by nearly a third of the community mental health workforce in protest against the sacking of a union activist.
Up to 150 of the 470 members of the city’s community mental health department walked out last week following the sacking a few days earlier of Karen Reissmann, a community psychiatric nurse, for gross misconduct.
The action has forced Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust to put on standby beds in the private sector to look after patients normally cared for in the community.
Deputy chief executive Tracy Ellery said the trust was “disappointed” by the strike action. She added: “Our primary focus is the safety of patients during this industrial action and in support of this the primary care trust has made available extra money for beds in the private sector locally. We would prefer to be able to bring services back to normal, but the safest alternative has been to use additional beds in the short term.”
Reissmann is chair of the Unison branch at the trust. The union claims between 130 and 150 of its 160 members are supporting the strike, although the trust puts the figure at 82.
The union said the strike would go on until Reissmann returns to work. A spokesperson added: “There are discussions taking place over the grounds and timescale of an appeal but the only way to end the strike is to reinstate her.”
If the appeal fails, Reissmann plans to take the issue to the European Court of Human Rights.
Reissmann, a psychiatric nurse and Unison branch chair, was initially suspended in July for voicing concerns over changes to mental health services in Manchester. She claims she was dismissed for speaking to the press whilst suspended, although the trust refuses to confirm this.
According to the trust the strike could delay some of the service reforms.