The NHS has to make more effort to tackle bullying among staff, but should not move to a ‘blame free’ culture, according to health minister Lord Prior.

  • Lord Prior says “blame” should still play a role in addressing problems in the NHS
  • Last government was wrong to focus on cutting waiting times in early 2000s, he says
  • Monitor and TDA will be “much more powerful” organisation

In his first speech as minister for NHS productivity, Lord Prior pointed to national staff survey findings that suggested 24 per cent of workers had experienced bullying or harassment from a manager or work colleague.

At the King’s Fund’s Better Value Healthcare conference this morning, he said bosses in other industries would “hit the panic button” if bullying reached these levels in their organisations.

David Prior North Norfolk Trust chair CQC preferred candidate

Bosses in other industries would ‘hit the panic button’ if bullying reached the levels of the NHS staff survey, Lord Prior said

The former chair of the Care Quality Commission, who was made a minister following this year’s general election, added: “There’s something about the culture in the NHS that needs to change….staff experience is a critical indicator of whether an organisation is performing well.

“If we are going to get transformational change we need to address these issues. The Berwick report held up a mirror [to this] and we need to keep doing that.”

But where errors and harm occur, Lord Prior said “blame” should still be part of the answer.

He said: “We are not talking about a blame free culture, but a just culture, somewhere between a blame culture and blame free culture.”

Lord Prior said the NHS Five Year Forward View was the “only game in town” for dealing with the NHS’s challenges, and the tight financial situation would “force us to make difficult decisions”.

He also argued that, in the early 2000s, the NHS had been too focused on reducing waiting times. Instead, he said, it should have concentrated on reshaping services to meet the needs of the growing elderly population with multiple conditions.

Meanwhile, the NHS needs to do more to spread best practice and integrate services, he added, which will need Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority to be a “much more powerful organisation” to drive change.

Last month the two organisations revealed they would operate under a joint chief executive, but said the arrangement stopped short of a merger.