Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust is launching an independent investigation, following claims nurses quit because of “bullying”.
While it strongly refutes the claims, the trust announced this week it would commission an independent inquiry into the way bullying reports are handled and investigated.
The move follows allegations made by a former accident and emergency sister at the trust’s Alexandra Hospital in Redditch. She claimed nurses had left because of bullying and harassment.
Mandy Bridgman, who says she took early retirement because of the way she was treated, alleged 26 staff left the department in the two-year period up to 2013 for similar reasons.
Meanwhile, earlier this month the entire consultant team running A&E at the Alexandra resigned at the same time.
The trust said it was taking a range of action in response to speculation and concern about the shock departure of the five consultants and other issues, including the bullying allegations.
“We are confident these actions will demonstrate how seriously we are taking the events of recent weeks”
Managers said the bullying claims had been thoroughly investigated internally and were found to be untrue. However, the trust has now said it will be launching an independent inquiry into the way reports of bullying are dealt with across the organisation.
“We take any allegations of bullying extremely seriously,” it said in a statement. “We are instigating an independent investigation which will take an in-depth look at the way all reports of bullying within the organisation are handled and investigated, which will inform any action that needs to be taken as a result.
“The findings will be reported to the board as soon as possible,” it added.
A trust spokesman said the organisation had yet to commission someone to undertake the investigation, but that it was expected to be announced shortly.
He told Nursing Times the probe had been launched in the light of the findings of Sir Robert Francis’ Freedom to Speak Up review in order to provide clarity and reassurance for staff.
In addition, trust bosses were due to meet with the consultants who resigned to discuss their reasons for leaving.
“Should there be any themes which give cause for concern these will be addressed by the board,” said the statement.
Meanwhile, the trust said it was working with local partner organisations to ensure services at the Alexandra remained safe and sustainable, and it had already started recruiting to the vacant consultant posts.
It was also looking into expanding the A&E department at Worcestershire Royal Hospital to cope with ongoing pressure on emergency services.
The trust pledged to keep staff “updated and engaged” and listen to their views. A series of extra staff engagement sessions will take place across its sites this week and in coming months.
“We are confident these actions will demonstrate how seriously we are taking the events of recent weeks and enable us to put in place a plan moving forward,” said trust chair Harry Turner.
“Whilst these issues have been very much in the spotlight, it is important to stress it is very much business as usual for us as we continue to ensure the delivery of high quality and safe patient care,” he said.