Managers `using nurses as spies'

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The Independent Online

Senior managers sometimes try to use workplace nurses as agents to spy on employees, according to the Royal College of Nursing. And where doctors are present in organisations, many like to treat nurses as "handmaidens", which they find "demeaning".

In a survey conducted for the College it was found that one in five nurses reported that "human resource" managers attempted to secure confidential medical information about employees. Eight out of ten reported "conflict" with such managers.

A research group, Industrial Relations Services, found that managers tried to use medical issues to discipline staff or make cuts.

Despite their title as "human resource" managers, nurses found them less disposed to offer training than where superiors were senior nurses or physicians.

Carol Bannister, adviser to the College on occupational health nursing, confirmed that RCN members faced pressures from managers who did not fully understand the legislation on access to medical records or the role of the occupational health nurse.

Ms Bannister said the union always advised members to get a clear understanding of their professional role established and incorporated into contracts of employment.

New guidelines on confidentiality were being prepared by the College to help nurses explain to colleagues and managers, "when they are stepping out of line and asking for information to which they are not entitled".