Culture of Bullying at Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust Laid Bare

A major new report has suggested that bullying is a serious problem in the NHS in Liverpool.

The review highlighted “failures at multiple levels” at Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust since 2011.

It was even suggested that the bullying of staff in the trust could have contributed to some deaths in the region.

For example, one individual who was suffering from lung cancer was not diagnosed for a period of four months due to what was considered to be unwarranted bullying.

In response to the report, the trust has acknowledged that the issues had gone unchecked for a critical period of time, and has resolved to make significant improvements to its overall culture.

Jackie Smith, chief executive and registrar at the Nursing and Midwifery Council, confirmed that investigations were underway regarding some of the complaints unearthed by the research.

“We can confirm that we are investigating a number of individuals from Liverpool Community NHS Trust on allegations of misconduct.”

The trust delivers community health services to about 750,000 people in Liverpool and Sefton, either in their homes or at health centres.

Law firm Capsticks conductied the review, after the hierarchy of the trust received reports that bullying was indeed an issue within the organisation.

One of the most damning reports revealed by the research was the suggestion that an attack on a health worker, who was ultimately taken hostage and seriously assaulted by the relative of patient, was never fully investigated.

The board’s failure to properly oversee the trust’s in-patient services also led to the serving of two warning notices from the Care Quality Commission in January 2014

“A lack of clear management and leadership” on its health services for offenders, including a failure to “properly understand deaths in custody and the factors that contributed in part to those deaths,” according to the final report.

Commenting on the findings, Sue Page, chief executive at the trust since April 2014, indicated that it had become apparent that there were problems among staff when the report had been instigated two years ago.

“Two years ago, as we talked to staff, it was quite clear there were a lot of things that were clearly very wrong. Some of the staff were incredibly hurt by this and all I can say is a really big sorry on behalf of the NHS. They didn’t deserve it, it wasn’t their fault. We gave Capsticks complete independence and the staff feel it is an unbiased, independent report. A lot more has to be done. The report says we are only just turning a corner.”

Meanwhile, West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper has called for a public inquiry into the trust.

“This wasn’t just a poor quality job. We are talking about people who lacked basic humanity and appear to have fiddled the records to protect themselves.”

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Gloucestershire Abuse Figures Make for Chilling Reading

A survey conducted among NHS staff in Gloucestershire paints a sobering picture of the level of assault and abuse that appears to be routine in the health service.

NHS staff working at hospitals in Gloucestershire stated that they’ve been assaulted and abused by patients, their relatives and even other staff members over the last twelve months.

In fact, nearly 20% of those who responded had experienced some form of physical violence during the previous calendar year.

Additionally, bullying, harassment and abuse from patients, relatives and the general public had been encountered by 30% of respondents.

The annual survey also found 26% had experienced harassment, bullying or abuse from other staff members during the same period.

Responding to the results of the survey, unions have condemned the state of health service workers’ conditions, and called for action from trusts and other major health bodies to ensure that staff both feel, and actually are, safe.

Andrew Christaki, the Royal College of Nursing’s senior officer for Gloucestershire, was extremely critical of the level of bullying bullying and harassment in the health service, and suggested that health workers have a right to expect the authorities to deal with this more effectively.

“Nursing staff come to work to deliver safe, excellent care for their patients, and have a right to expect to be protected from threats of violence or bullying. It is crucial that employers do all they can to safeguard their staff. This means having safe staffing levels, proper training and systems in place to call for help quickly if it is needed.”

In addition to the problems caused by bullying and harassment, the survey also suggested that health workers have to cope with extreme crashes due to insufficient funding and staffing.

68% of respondents were working extra hours, 34% had suffered work-related stress in the last year, while 66% had felt under pressure to attend work when feeling unwell in the last three months.

Joanne Galazka, Unite’s regional officer for Gloucester, opined that the results indicated that the health service is currently “creaking at the seams due to this government’s failure to provide sufficient funding for the NHS.”

Galazka continued: “We have 500 members at the trust, working long hours trying to paper over the cracks in the system due to staff shortages and lengthening waiting lists. Therefore, it is not surprising that stress levels rise and morale is not good as a result.”

Dave Smith, director of human resources and organisational development, at the Gloucester Foundation Trust, defended the conduct of the organisation, and suggested that robust procedures are in place to deal with any such problems.

“Staff are encouraged to report all such incidents no matter how minor. We recognise that this can be stressful which is why our staff receive special training within their field. We also offer a wide range of additional support services so staff can manage this element of their job. On the small number of occasions when staff do suffer intentional violence or aggression we have robust systems in place to protect and support them.”

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Bullying Culture in Worcs NHS Rejected by Independent Adjudicator

An independent report carried out on an NHS trust suggests that it has insufficient policies and procedures in place to deal with bullying.

The investigation carried out by the Good Governance Institute suggests that existing anti-bullying policies at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust (WAHT) are “not fit for purpose”.

During the course of the investigation, more than 700 members of staff across the trust’s three hospitals – in Kidderminster, Worcester and Redditch – were interviewed.

However, it was also found that claims of a so-called “culture of bullying” within the trust were unfounded, and that there was no evidence of “endemic bullying” within the organisation.

The investigation came to light owing to complaints from frontline staff, many of whom stated that morale was exceedingly low.

It was also expressed that employees within the trust had fears about speaking out regarding bullying.

Suggestions that there were problems with a bullying culture within the WAHT were exacerbated by the fact that five A&E consultants within the trust quit simultaneously earlier this year.

Although the more serious accusations regarding the trust were rejected by the Good Governance Institute, the organisation nonetheless highlighted inconsistencies in the way that complaints were dealt with.

Medics were even quoted as stating that the culture in Redditch was one of palpable fear.

According to the final report produced by WAHT, the Dignity at Work policy is not “fit for purpose” either as a document, or with regard to the way it has been administered.

Staff complaints were apparently often dealt with in ways that were inconsistent and confusing.

Speaking on the findings of the investigation,Chris Tidman, interim chief executive at WAHT stated: “We have reflected on the report and approved a comprehensive plan to take immediate action to address the weaknesses identified. This morning we held nine staff sessions, taking the opportunity to talk and listen to our staff.”

This is by no means the first instance of bullying reported within the NHS. Previously, a national survey spanning the entirety of the NHS, published earlier this year, discovered that around 25 per cent of all staff had experience some form of bullying and intimidation.

In February, the entire consultant team running A&E services at the trust’s Alexandra Hospital in Redditch resigned amid claims of a “bullying culture” and a breakdown of the relationship between medical staff and management.

And earlier this year, Lord Prior, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health in the House of Lords, suggested that a ‘toxic’ culture of bullying amongst NHS staff is putting the safety of patients at risk.

Nonetheless, for now the opinion of independent adjudicators is that the suggestion of an endemic bullying culture within the NHS in Worcestershire appears to be wide of the mark.

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GMC launches major survey for doctors in training

The General Medical Council (GMC) is launching the world’s largest postgraduate medical education survey to gauge the quality of medical education and training in the UK.

The national training survey (NTS), which gets underway on Tuesday 24 March, involves more than 50,000 doctors and provides important information about how well the system is working. It is open to all doctors in foundation and specialty training programmes, including GP training.

And following concerns raised in the 2014 NTS over the issue of bullying (8% of doctors said they had experienced bullying and just under 14% reported witnessing bullying), this year’s survey will specifically address  the environment in which doctors are trained; how fairly doctors feel they are being treated, and if their posts help build confidence.

“‘We need to listen to what doctors in training tell us about their experience”, said Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC. “This is an important test of how well the system is working and it is incumbent on everyone involved to act on the results.

“Past results suggest that most doctors feel they receive a high standard of education but everyone accepts that improvements can be made.

“We know too that the external environment is extremely challenging with massive service pressures throughout the NHS in the UK – this year in particular we want to establish in which areas doctors in training are receiving most support for their learning and in which they are not.

The information provided by doctors in the NTS is anonymous and the findings will be published in June 2015 then reviewed by deaneries, local education and training boards, NHS trusts and GP surgeries.

Mr Dickson continued: “The important point is that doctors who complete the survey know that their views do matter and that the GMC, deans and hospitals and surgeries will act in response to the issues they raise. The survey has become increasingly influential with both those involved in education and in the wider health system taking notice of what doctors in training are telling us.”

The NTS is set to run until 6 May 2015.

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