Hospital bullying: more staff stay in their jobs

Reduction in Whittington vacancies and absences follows allegations made in a report two years ago

Friday, 5th February 2021 — By Helen Chapman

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THE Whittington Hospital says it now has measures in place to tackle bullying and reduce staff vacancies and absences.

Senior officials at the NHS trust were quizzed by councillors at last month’s health scrutiny meeting about morale at the hospital after allegations of bullying in a report two years ago.

Michelle Johnson, chief nurse at the Whittington, said: “We have a very hierarchical structure within the NHS and we don’t necessarily train people to be good managers. I think when clinicians move into their first management post they often do with a wealth of expertise in their clinical field but very limited experience in management and leadership.”

She said the Archway hospital is doing role-play work with managers to help understand how their behaviours influence staff.

The independent report in 2018 said “terrified” hospital staff feared opening emails from bosses who “scream and shout” to get their way. The probe took evidence from more than 1,000 staff.

This year’s Whittington annual report said staff training helps identify the difference between “being firm and fair” and bullying.

It said progress has been made and the vacancy rate has fallen.

Ms Johnson, who was awarded an MBE this year, said: “There’s specific work being done over this Covid period with them around how they manage staff and how they manage staff absence and anxiety around Covid.”

Jonathan Gardner, director of strategy and commissioning at the Whittington, said: “This is not something that is a short-term fix. One of the things that the report writers told us was that, if anything, it will get worse for the first couple years as people realise they can speak out.

“We are going into this with our eyes open that this is a multi-year programme to improve the culture of our organisation.”

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