HOSPITAL staff were called “incompetent, underperforming, useless and dopey”, pushed and prodded, and had pens thrown at them, a damning report into bullying has revealed.
Shouting at colleagues in front of patients was the “norm” in some areas of Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, and the belief was the bullying was given the nod from the top, conciliation service Acas found. Acas, which conducted interviews with 97 staff, was called in after a report by CQC inspectors, highlighting the bullying claims and staff shortages at Hull Royal Infirmary and Castle Hill Hospital, earlier this year.
During interviews, many were in tears and some said they had been emotionally damaged by the experience “and were no longer the same people as they were before”. Many had to take long periods off sick, leave or take lower grade jobs “to escape”.
The trust’s target-driven approach under former chief executive Phil Morley - now chief executive at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Essex - was a major contributory factor. His office declined to comment today.
The report said: “Staff said they were screamed and shouted at to find beds to meet targets and blamed if they were breached.”
Those who complained were often victimised and interviewees claimed managers hand-picking friends to conduct investigations, or being told by senior managers to raise their concerns with the very managers who were doing the bullying. Some were too frightened to attend the Acas interviews - even on the telephone.
Examples of bullying included consultants being threatened with the sack if they didn’t work on Saturdays and those who were not in an “in group” in the cliquey environment of the hospitals being given the worst shifts.
The report said: “Many staff talked of feeling intimidated into not pursuing complaints and there was a strong belief this message came from the very top, with senior staff being seen as supportive of bullies and the bullying culture.”
It concluded: “There was an overwhelming feeling that only major changes at the top would lead to a real cultural shift.”
The only other change to the executive board has been the departure a fortnight ago of chief operating officer Morag Olsen, who has a new role at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board. A spokeswoman said it was “not appropriate” to comment.
Staff at the Hull trust were briefed today about an action plan which includes mandatory training on acceptable behaviour and a new support service and hotline number for staff to report concerns anonymously. The trust has said formal complaints will be investigated and “appropriate” action taken. But health union Unison said there were still bullies who needed to be weeded outand claimed it had given a list of names to managers.
Chief executive Christopher Long, who took over last week, said: “I have a very clear message to our workforce: bullying, intimidation, harassment and other such behaviours will simply not be tolerated. The Acas report makes uncomfortable reading at times, but I am very much focused on making the issues it raises a thing of the past.”
Paul Credland, Staff Side Chair of the Joint Negotiating and Consultation Committee, said bullying had increased due to a “target driven culture and poor management skills,” and welcomed Mr Long’s response.