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It’s going to be a messy year for University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust.

The North West provider is already subject to a major investigation into whistleblowing concerns around its urology services – due to report in the spring - and will now face another external review into patient safety and governance concerns in the trauma and orthopaedics division.

The trust has already commissioned one review into the T&O issues, which found the service to be riven by “internecine squabbles”.

But the previous review was overseen by trust executives with limited terms of reference, so some staff and local MPs have been pushing for a wider, fully independent, investigation. This has been resisted by the trust over the last few months, but now NHS England has taken over the situation.

HSJ has learned the national body has started discussions with the Royal College of Surgeons about conducting a new independent review, which would take a more in-depth look at specific cases where patients were harmed.

Corporate cops

A tribunal has highlighted the subjective nature of how language and behaviour is perceived and policed in the modern workplace.

The hearing ruled that a senior manager with a ‘blemish-free’ record was unfairly sacked, with the judge raising concerns about the trust’s ‘policing of language’.

An employment tribunal judgment, handed down last month but published yesterday, stated Barts Health Trust’s “unreasonable” corporate culture meant deputy head of corporate accounts Gifty Poku had not behaved in an unreasonable way. 

Ms Poku was fired in November 2019 after an investigation earlier that year into allegations of misconduct. These included accusing a colleague of lying when trust standards stated she should have called it a “false statement”, and waiting more than two seconds to enter a room when called in by a manager as she was finishing up a conversation with a colleague. The trust also described an interaction with a less senior staff member as making a “vulnerable adult” cry.

Judge Knight said: “[Barts’] corporate culture (or at least, that which the disciplinary panel and appeal panel expected to exist) requires the policing of language.”

Barts says it is “carefully considering the findings and its implications”. Whether the events it concerns were sparked more by individuals’ behaviour or by a wider organisational culture will no doubt be under scrutiny.