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“Outstanding” London trust Homerton University Hospital FT has said it will review its values after coming under fire for asking staff to communicate “only in English” when around other people.
A document published under the “trust values” section of Homerton University Hospital Foundation Trust’s website, says: “I will only communicate in English in the presence of others.”
It has been widely shared on social media, with many criticising the trust for its wording. Partha Kar, NHS England’s director of equality, medical workforce, was among those who questioned the wording and has since said the trust had been in touch with him and acknowledged the wording “could be better”.
He also said Homerton told him it would “embark on work to co-produce a new strategy and [undertake a] review of values, taking diverse staff views in mind”.
It followed a separate notice being posted on Twitter yesterday from an unknown hospital which read: “English is the only language to be spoken in the ward area – this includes the kitchen. Disciplinary action will be taken against staff who do not comply, including agency and bank.”
The trust told HSJ its values were drawn up “following extensive engagement with staff, patients and other stakeholders” and that staff are asked to communicate in English in the presence of others to ensure “we are inclusive of everyone and, in many situations, to ensure safety”.
It also said it found “no evidence” the notice was from its property.
Author and consultant psychiatrist Lynne Drummond said staff speaking to each other in their own language could make patients or other members of the nursing team feel “excluded”.
The trust may not have had harmful intentions but the issue has certainly prompted much debate on social media and beyond.
Still the Cinderella sector?
As the government pumps more and more extra money to acute providers tackling elective backlogs, the mental health sector is getting a raw deal – according to one provider.
Tees Esk and Wear Valleys Foundation Trust, one of the biggest mental health trusts in England, has highlighted a lack of additional funding for the sector, in contrast to the £8bn earmarked to tackle elective waiting lists.
The trust has said “uncertainties” over national funding for mental health could “impede” progress against long-term plan aspirations and also negatively impact “wider service sustainability”.
It comes as the trust manages 20 per cent extra demand compared to pre-pandemic levels – and it expects demand to continue growing for the next five years. It is also dealing with patients with higher acuity of mental health needs, which means many are staying in inpatient beds for longer.
These factors have led TEWV to admit recently that it often struggles to find enough beds for its patients and is sending increasing number of people to other mental health providers out of area.
The Department of Health and Social Care pointed to the promise of an extra £2.3bn being promised for mental health services by 2023-24, as outlined by the long-term plan.
The trust has been at the centre of care and quality concerns. The trust has told HSJ that it is working on staffing and culture – as mandated by a Care Quality Commission warning notice given in December – and that it’s confident it’s making progress.
However, the patients, families, campaigners and MPs calling for a public inquiry into care failings at TEWV, which they say are ongoing, may disagree.