Staff report bullying increase at Preston and Chorley hospitals

Staff are asked each year whether they have been bullied or harassed by patients or colleagues
Staff are asked each year whether they have been bullied or harassed by patients or colleagues
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One in four staff at the trust which runs the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble hospitals say they have been bullied or harassed by patients or their relatives.

The annual survey of staff at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTH) reveals the proportion of workers who have been subject to ill-treatment by people attending the hospitals increased from 23 percent to 26 percent over the past twelve months. The trust remains below the national average for the problem, which stands at 28 percent.

There has also been a growth in the proportion of staff reporting that they have experienced bullying or harassment by colleagues – that has increased from 16.2 percent to 20 percent in the past year. Meanwhile, the rate of bullying faced by staff from managers has also gone up from 11.8 percent to 14.2 percent, bucking the national trend.

A board meeting of LTH heard the figures described as “unacceptable”.

Chief Executive, Karen Partington, said there were “pockets of concern” within different departments at the two hospitals.

“It’s important that the issues are tackled within the divisions. When we have asked staff what they mean by a manager, they regard them as being the next [person] above that individual – so if you’re a band 2 [employee], then it’s a band 3 [colleague].

“Clearly within the organisation there are some pockets of concern and we need to ensure that they are managed throughout those areas and resolved very quickly. We fair favourably within the wider NHS, but for us as an organisation, it’s not acceptable,” she said.

A divisional breakdown of the survey responses is now being compiled and the meeting heard that an action plan to reverse the trend towards increased bullying will be produced by mid-May.

The board will also make “personal pledges” about the way they expect staff within the organisation to act.

“Those could be really powerful messages from the board, as it’s about setting the culture from the top,” workforce director, Karen Swindley, said.

“I will call out behaviours that I see that are inappropriate.”

The meeting heard that staff with concerns could report them to the trust’s whistleblowing service, the “Freedom to Speak Up” guardian – but members were told that should not be the default route for registering any problems.

“The responsibility within our portfolios is to ensure our leaders are leading well,” deputy director of nursing, Sarah Cullen, said.

“Freedom to Speak Up is a really important avenue for us, but it is a reflection of not being able to talk to your own manager.

“Anecdotally, the staff do report back positive consequences of challenging some of the leadership behaviours,” she added.

Trust chair, Sue Musson, aid bullying was a “titanic issue”.

“It isn’t sufficient for us just to compare ‘okay’ with national indicators,” she said.