Bullying taken ‘very seriously’ at East Sussex Healthcare Trust

LEWES. County Hall SUS-150522-151022001
LEWES. County Hall SUS-150522-151022001

Bullying and harassment will be dealt with ‘very seriously’ according to the new improvement director at a failing hospital trust.

Maggie Oldham has been brought in to improve East Sussex Healthcare Trust, which runs Conquest Hospital in Hastings and Eastbourne DGH, after being appointed by the Trust Development Authority (TDA).

Mrs Oldham, who worked at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust – and supported it as chief executive while it went into administration – spoke at East Sussex County Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee today (October 1).

“I do have a lot of energy and aspiration for this trust,” she said.

“I do think the recovery is very much within our grasp. I do not expect it to take two years.”

She told councillors the board will now be monitored after the CQC report showed a ‘disconnect’ between staff and managers.

“The directors in this organisation within the next six weeks should have a set of objectives which are very clear,” Mrs Oldham added.

She said the board members who have got areas in their portfolio where ‘bullying and harrassment’ can be identified among staff will be monitored over a short period.

“When staff do come forward - I think they are very brave.

“It is obvious that those people will still be afraid to give the names of the managers. They are left then with the consequences of that.

“If I don’t have a name and you’re not prepared to give me a statement how can I actually discipline that member of staff.

“Any evidence of bullying and harassment will be dealt with very seriously.”

Mrs Oldham said the trust, which has formally been placed in special measures, will be working to encourage staff to give names.

Councillor Alan Shuttleworth welcomed the plan to monitor board members, adding some non executive directors had ‘remained quite silent’.

He said: “They said they were aware of the issues – what were they doing about it, Where was the challenge? I’m deeply concerned that the majority of the board have been around throughout this process.”

Cllr Shuttleworth said keeping Stuart Welling on had ‘set back’ the trust’s improvement but agreed some board members had to be kept in position for ‘continuity’.

The committee heard from acting chief executive Richard Sunley how the trust will be working to improve the trust, following the report.

The CQC report found there had been little improvement at the two hospitals since its last inspection in September, 2014, which rated it ‘inadequate’ overall, but ‘good’ for caring.

Cllr John Ungar said: “It reminds me of reading a horror trilogy where the first book you read makes your hair stand on end and then you think the next one can’t be as bad and it is absolutely frightening.”

He said based on the evidence of improvement so far he couldn’t be sure the future ‘third book’ would not be as scary.

Tim Cooper, Head of Hospital Inspection at the Care Quality Commission said he hoped the ‘third book’ will show the trust’s ‘improvement journey’ out of special measures.

Michael Ensor, chairman, also added said the committee would not reconsidering reconfiguration of services at the trust, following a conversation with Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell.

Cllr Shuttleworth said he was concerned about the reconfiguration at the time it was debated.

“A lot of thee information we were given at the time I think is challengeable and I don’t share your view,” he said.

“We do need to revisit it and see if is the right decision.”

Speaking after the meeting, Liz Walke, chair of campaign group Save the DGH said: “We are surprised that East Sussex HOSC who called for the resignation of both the chief executive and chair of ESHT in direct response to the first CQC report which laid bare concerns about incident reporting and misleading information does not at the very least refer all the reconfigurations which have taken place over the last two years to the Secretary of State for Health. “Surely this should be done without delay to restore public confidence in their local NHS?”

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