WORKFORCE: Staff at a trust in Yorkshire claim they were subjected to bullying behaviour including being shouted and sworn at in front of patients and having pens thrown at them, according to an independent report.

Employees at Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals Trust told researchers the bullying “came from the top” with a “target driven approach” contributing to the culture.

The report by conciliation service Acas was commissioned by the trust after the Care Quality Commission said in May that it had seen a culture of bullying at the trust.

In its report, published this week, Acas said employees it had interviewed reported “aggressive behaviour”.

This included being “pushed and prodded”, having other staff putting a hand in their face to stop them speaking, and being called “incompetent, underperforming, useful, thick and dopey”.

There was a sense of cliques existing in the trust resulting in “in groups” and “out groups”, with the former getting “preferential treatment” and the latter being “victimised”.

Examples were given of staff being refused compassionate leave to be with sick or dying close relatives, and there was a common view among staff that the sickness policy was “used as a weapon”.

It was also felt that in some areas of the trust, staff with disabilities were viewed as a “burden”, with examples provided of workplace adaptations either not being made or put under “extreme scrutiny”.

Many of the staff were in tears as they recounted their stories to Acas researchers.

Some interviewees said they had been “emotionally damaged” and were “no longer the same people they were before” because of the treatment they had received.

Participants claimed that this culture came from the top, with bullying tactics condoned by senior staff in order to hit targets.

“The view was that this really started with the previous [chief executive officer] and the drive for foundation trust status,” the report added.

The trust’s previous chief executive Phil Morley stood down in April, weeks before the CQC published its report.

At the time he said it was a “personal decision” and in July he took up the role of chief executive at the Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust in Essex.

Hull and East Yorkshire’s new chief executive Chris Long started at the trust at the end of last month.

Mr Long said: “I have a very clear message to our workforce: bullying, intimidation, harassment and other such behaviours will simply not be tolerated.”

He said the report made “uncomfortable reading” but he would take action to make “the issues it raises a thing of the past”.

A spokeswoman for the NHS Trust Development Authority said it was “working closely with the trust to bring about long term safe and sustainable health services for patients”.

She added: “We welcome the recent positive steps that the trust has taken to address concerns of staff.

“The TDA takes seriously cases of alleged bullying and we will now focus on supporting the trust to make any improvements necessary.”

A spokesperson for Princess Alexandra said it had “appointed an experienced CEO following a rigorous selection process”.

“Phil Morley has a strong track-record of leading trusts to deliver even better patient care,” she added.