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Worcestershire trust’s bullying policy ‘not fit for purpose’


Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust’s policy for dealing with bullying and harassment is ‘not fit for purpose’, an independent review has found.

However, the report said that there was “insufficient evidence” to conclude that bullying and harassment was “endemic” at the West Midlands trust.

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In March, the NHS Trust Development Authority commissioned the Good Governance Institute to investigate allegations of bullying at Worcestershire Acute.

It follows claims made by a former accident and emergency sister at the trust’s Alexandra Hospital in Redditch that nurses had left because of bullying and harassment.

The institute’s report, published today, said that the trust’s “dignity at work” policy for addressing bullying and harassment is “not fit for purpose, either as a document or in the way it is administered”.

The Good Governance Institute found “divergent views” among different teams at the trust as to what constituted bullying and harassment, which had exacerbated “inconsistent approaches to policy and to investigations”.

The report said interviewees at board and senior management level felt the trust’s culture was positive and did not include bullying and harassment. There was a feeling the terms had been “used by staff that did not want to be performance managed”.

“It is crucial that staff feel safe and supported when they raise concerns of this nature”

Jeffrey Worrall

However, the review found the majority of staff interviewed “did not feel valued” and that people who made complaints had found the process “draining and painful”.

Many clinical staff who spoke to interviewers said they had expressed concerns about patient safety but had not been listened to, and concerns were raised that medical trainees did not always feel supported and part of the team.

One interviewee said the culture of the organisation was “rotten” and another said it was one of “systemic self-preservation”.

The report criticised the claim by senior management that bullying was being used as a “buzzword”, noting that if management started from the premise that bullying and harassment did not exist “it becomes very difficult to identify and address any possible causes”.

The institute also said it was concerned by what it had heard of “cases where people have been regularly shouted at”.

While interviewers had been told by some senior managers that this should be seen as “normal practice in a stressful environment”, the report said normalising this behaviour was “not acceptable”.

The review said there was insufficient evidence to conclude bullying and harassment was endemic but there were issues that required “immediate action”.

“We continue to receive contacts from victims of bullying, and there can be little doubt that abuse of staff is still a big problem”

Nigel Gilbert

It made a number of recommendations, including that the trust should make an explicit statement expressing zero tolerance of bullying and that an independent expert should be appointed to whom staff can refer their concerns.

The trust should also immediately review the dignity at work policy and reinstate exit interviews.

Chris Tidman, Worcestershire Acute’s new chief executive, said the trust accepted all the report’s recommendations.

“My board colleagues and I will do everything in our power to ensure we listen to staff, take their views seriously and ensure they feel safe and supported when they bring ideas to us, or raise concerns,” he said.

Jeffrey Worrall, portfolio director for the TDA, said it would work with the trust to make sure it delivered improvements.

He added: “It is crucial that staff feel safe and supported when they raise concerns of this nature, with a clear process to follow, and the recommendations are designed to improve the support available to them and their working environment.”

But Nigel Gilbert, chair of the local campaign group Betrayed By Thier Trust, said he was “expecting some serious action”.

“We continue to receive contacts from victims of bullying, and there can be little doubt that abuse of staff is still a big problem,” he said.


Readers' comments (13)

  • Any senior manager that says bullying and harassment does not exist in their organisation is a liar or suffering from acute sensory deprivation.

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  • Typical NHS management c**p - issue an edict from on high and assume that the problem has gone away.

    I'm thinking of starting a campaign - I'm not going to respond to any manager unless they can first tell me my name - #DoYouKnowMyName?

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  • I have just left the trust as the way staff nurses are treated is horrible. There was no support for newly qualified nurses and training was always put on hold due to staff shortages. I wish I had never gone there!

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  • As ever this shows that most NHS policies and procedures, especially those which apply to managers, are worthless.

    And "performance managed": is that not just a buzzword for finding an official looking way of harassing folk? Certainly is in my experience...

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  • Bullying does exist in every Trust but the lack of evidence is what leads Managers to believe it doesn't exist.

    I work as a staff nurse, but also am a Unison steward, and I reported my concerns via the hospital governors about bullying. This was escalated quickly to the Chairman and led to a meeting with her a week later. She was very interested and a month later there are actual changes already being implemented in the Trust to tackle bullying at all levels.

    Speak up and let your voices be heard. If you leave it to someone else then managers will always be in the dark.

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  • I agree with desertdeserter that a high level approach can work - there is often a disconnect between what high level managers hear about staff experiences and the reality, and this is produced by a deepseated reticence about reporting up bad news or worries. When you shortcircuit that you can indeed see action, but the problem is that a lot of suffering goes on beforehand, sometimes destroying careers. Rule one in the Bully's Handbook (I haven't seen a copy but presume it exists and has been widely read because the pattern repeats) is "Isolate, isolate, isolate" and it takes a lot of courage to break through that. Unfortunately some bullies are also clever people and are capable of exploiting situations to put their victims in a negative light.

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  • I bet there is a Bully's Handbook!

    Might Nursing Times enlighten us? I'm certain that something similar exists for school use. Why reinvent the wheel?

    Once strategies are identified, the behaviour could be exposed and reviled.

    This could work!

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  • Anonymous 1.09pm - I just HAD to look online and check and found The Handbook of Dealing with Workplace Bullying edited by Dr Anne-Marie Quigg (2015 publication). Haven't read it or even heard of it before, but I might either get a fee for advertising or perhaps a breach of copyright suit!

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  • For several months I was verbally and psychologically bullied by my line manager. The team started with 5 than was reduced to just to 2 of us. I could not believe that in this era these things can still happen.

    I started to get palpatation every night
    Frequent Night Sweats.
    No one to turn too, due to fear.
    Felt very lonely and demoralised.
    I went for counselling but it helped a little.
    Everyone knew my line manager had a reputation for bullying but yet nothing was done.
    Eventually I left, a good man once said to me 'if you are not appreciated do not tolerate'

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  • for the first time after over 20 years of service bullied by my new boss out of my job. Her husband, it later transpired, a school teacher had been imprisoned for paedophilia. maybe that went some way to explain her behaviour. 20 similar cases similar to mine came to light through the Trade Union Secretary and of whom 5 she had accompanied to a tribunal with a successful outcome.

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