Bullying and racism uncovered at NHS Trust

Royal Stoke University Hospital Credit: PA

One in five people who responded to a survey say there is a culture of bullying within their team at a Midlands NHS Trust.

The stark figure has been revealed in a report which brings together the experiences of 3,500 staff at the University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust, which runs the Royal Stoke University Hospital.

In one department, Anaesthetics, Critical Care and Theatres, more than a third of staff feel there is a bullying culture (36%).

The report was commissioned in August 2021, following anecdotal claims of inappropriate behaviour, and those behind it spoke to staff and carried out surveys.

  • One in ten of those nurses who took part was currently experiencing bullying or harassment

  • 18.7% of doctors was currently experiencing bullying or harassment

  • 49% of doctors attributed it to their ethnicity.

  • 26% of medical and dental staff have experienced this from a patient/visitor on at least one occasion in the past 24 months.

  • 32% per cent of nurses and midwives have on one or more occasions.

  • 42% of medical/dental staff attribute bullying/harassment from the public to their ethnicity.

One respondent felt they were badly treated during the pandemic,

“I was 'managed' into situations that I was destined to fail, despite telling my manager and consultants how I felt...I was unsupported during Covid.

"I didn't sleep properly for weeks and worked 35 days straight (most unpaid weekends).

"Senior management suggested that as this person was retiring soon not to pursue”.

Those carrying out the report heard of Chinese people being referred to as “slitted-eyed blokes” or “Mrs Ching-chang-chong”, Asian people being called “dog eaters”, and travellers being referred to as “dirty gypos”.

Emails were abrupt, team meetings acrimonious, and senior staff were seen to belittle junior colleagues. Non-white colleagues said they experienced micro-aggressions.

People thought senior leaders didn't tackle poor behaviour in the past, and there was an over reliance on policy and process, rather than challenging behaviour.

The report also said, "It is not clear to what extent the executive team and other senior leaders are aware of the scale of bullying and harassment."

The trust has been advised to overhaul its culture and make clear the professional behaviour it expects, while leaders need more support.

Training, mentoring and awareness campaigns are already taking place and in response to the report findings Dr Matthew Lewis, the Medical Director, said,“We take these matters very seriously and, after taking action to commission the independent report, we have already made progress on behalf of our workforce to tackle the issues highlighted including investment in a full time Freedom to Speak Up Guardian.“We will not tolerate any form of discrimination, bullying or harassment within UHNM and will continue to work with Brap and Roger Kline to ensure that everyone who works in our hospitals is treated with respect and has the opportunity to develop a fulfilling career.”