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Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust

Staff raise 'racially motivated bullying' concerns at trust

Care Quality Commission inspectors visiting Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals were told of “significant tensions” and “racially motivated bullying and harassment” among staff at the trust, a report published this week reveals.

An inspection team including the regulator’s chair, David Prior, and chief inspector of hospitals Professor Sir Mike Richards visited the trust in December and January, in response to “serious allegations raised by whistleblowers”, a statement from the regulator said.

Employees told the team there were “significant tensions” among staff “in particular for staff from black [and] minority ethnic (BME) groups who said they felt disadvantaged and, at times, subject to racially motivated bullying and harassment”.

“We are well aware that we have some longstanding difficult and complex cultural issues”

Matthew Kershaw

The team’s report, based on a series of focus groups with staff and patients, adds: “We were told that there was a lack of staff in senior positions which people described as ‘the glass ceiling’. They felt despite the trust recognising the need to support BME staff this had not resulted in any significant number of promotions at the higher senior level.”

Sir Mike said: “We carried out these visits because we’d received numerous reports of concerning information about the trust, and we wanted to hear first-hand from staff and patients at the trust about their experiences. The majority of patients were positive about their experiences, as were a number of staff – although this was by no means universal.”

Sir Mike Richards

Sir Mike Richards

The regulator has passed on the staff’s concerns to Brighton and Sussex chief executive Matthew Kershaw to investigate.

Sir Mike added that the findings of the report would also inform the trust’s first full probe under the CQC’s new inspection regime, which is planned for May.

While the inspectors heard that the chief executive was “visible” and “approachable” in the trust it was also felt that senior nurses were not so visible and “a lot of their communication to staff was via email”.

Staff also told inspectors about the challenge of working in some environments that were “out-dated and no longer fit for purpose”.

There was a lack of equipment storage space on some wards and poor connections between the various out-buildings at the Royal Sussex County Hospital which meant that patients had long transfers.

Mr Kershaw said the trust had actively encouraged staff and patients to talk to the CQC about their views.

Matthew Kershaw

Matthew Kershaw

He added “We are well aware that we have some longstanding difficult and complex cultural issues to address and a great deal of work is already underway to do so.

“We provided the CQC with details of the work being done to address some of these tensions, including the actions we are taking to address the specific issues we have around staff from BME groups.”

Readers' comments (5)

  • I'm a homosexual male and when I don't get offered a place on a course I wish to attend or I'm not successfully in gaining a promotion, I tend to think that it is because there was a better candidate than me rather than I'm being discriminated against for taking it up the council gritter - as some might describe it.

    I tend to find that most 'glass ceilings' are self imposed.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Dont know why you are smiling, Matthew, you have a real job of work to do!

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • michael stone

    ' it was also felt that senior nurses were not so visible'

    That would seem to fit with what I read in some posts [general, not about that specific hospital] on NT.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I think the first poster makes a fair point! I'm afraid i's not a fan of positive discrimination, (i'm wondering if that's what will happen now) as it can result in incompetent people in post just to make up a quota. I have lost out on jobs before that I felt should have been mine, but I have always taken it on the chin - and usually it worked out for the best in the long run.

    Oh and yes senior nurses are invisible at our Hospital too! I have long suspected that the director of nursing has been locked in a cupboard for a few years - or perhaps she emigrated and no one has noticed?

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Unfortunately bullying, intimidation and harassment in the NHS is not so selective as to involve just sexual orientation race and colour. It is a management culture that affects anybody who choses not to conform to changes they wish to make regardless of the negative impact it may have on patients and staff.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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