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Russells Hall bosses cleared of bullying

By Richard Guttridge | Dudley | Health | Published:

Leaders at a Black Country hospital have been cleared of bullying after two senior members of staff faced accusations.

Russells Hall

Russells Hall Hospital's former chief nurse Siobhan Jordan and medical director Julian Hobbs were the subject of complaints by staff, according to a new report. Ms Jordan left her role soon after. Both denied the claims.

An independent investigation at the hospital, run by the Dudley Group NHS Trust, that was sparked by complaints from staff found there was not a "systemic culture of bullying and intimidation by the trust leadership".

However, bosses have been told "to consider as a matter of urgency how the trust can increase staff confidence in its existing processes for raising concerns and whistleblowing" after it was found some staff were reluctant to come forward with concerns.

The investigation was launched by Capsticks Solicitors after a letter signed by 42 workers raised concerns about the "professional conduct of the senior executives of the trust board".

The report said there "have been incidents since April 2017 of bullying and intimidation reported" but of complaints that were passed to the HR department "all were resolved without any requirement for a formal investigation".

Union bosses have criticised the findings of the report, which they labelled as an "attempt to whitewash and sanitise the serious complaints."

The report said: "A number of allegations have been made of behaviour perceived as bullying and intimidation of staff by members of the leadership team. These allegations have not been substantiated, although we received similar accounts of this behaviour from a number of those interviewed."

The bullying probe focused of the then-chief nurse and medical director in particular, the report said. Ms Jordan left the trust in October but chiefs denied her departure was linked to the whistleblowing probe.

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"A number of allegations of bullying and intimidation of staff, primarily by the chief nurse but also by the medical director, were raised with us," it said.

"Both the chief nurse and medical director refuted these allegations. The allegations have not been subject to any investigation within the trust and insufficient detail has been provided in most cases to enable any further investigation of the allegations to be made.

"Where some details have been provided our further enquiries have not identified any specific allegations that require further investigation by the trust. It was in any event beyond the scope of our terms of reference to investigate specific allegations."

Trust bosses were told they must do more to ensure staff feel they can report concerns.

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But the report said: "We do not conclude that that there is a systemic culture of bullying and intimidation by the trust leadership."

It continued: "We do, however, consider that given the number of consistent accounts from those interviewed, there have been instances of behaviour by members of the leadership team that were perceived by others as bullying and harassment.

"Many of those interviewed made reference to this alleged behaviour, although the allegations were not supported by any documentary evidence other than two undated anonymous letters referred to later in this report."

Diane Wake, Dudley Group chief executive, said: "We certainly welcome the report from Capsticks into the trust.

"We accept the report and we accept the recommendations to take us forward as an organisation.

"Clearly, none of the allegations have been upheld. However there are quite a few of things we can do to improve the culture, to improve how safe staff feel when they are raising concerns, and improve the engagement across the organisation.

"The board are committed to moving forward the necessary improvements that we need, to improve the culture, to ensure that staff feel this is a safe and enjoyable place to work, and they feel safe and able to raise concerns through the right processes that we put in place."

Rob Quick, national officer for the union Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association, said: "Hospital doctors we represent are incensed by the attempt to whitewash and sanitise the serious complaints. It is highly unusual to see 42 doctors put their heads above the parapet and collectively make such a serious complaint."

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Chief Reporter - @RichG_star

Chief Reporter for the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton.

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