• Sheffield CCG accountable officer Maddy Ruff has been off since 21 March
  • CCG confirmed yesterday she was off work sick
  • Email in March said she had been signed off sick for two weeks

The accountable officer of Sheffield clinical commissioning group has been off work sick for six weeks amid allegations of bullying, whistleblowing and poor culture within the organisation, HSJ has learned.

The CCG confirmed yesterday that Maddy Ruff was currently off sick and had been since 21 March.

An internal email sent to staff on 21 March by deputy accountable officer Brian Hughes, and seen by HSJ, said Ms Ruff “is off sick at the moment and has been signed off work for two weeks”.

The CCG denied to HSJ late last month that Ms Ruff was off sick, and said she was on annual leave and would be back on Tuesday 30 April.

However a spokeswoman for the CCG today said she had not returned, and had been sick over the period of planned leave. She declined to comment further.

Mr Hughes said in his 21 March email to staff that her sickness absence “has nothing to do” with an independent investigation of the CCG, revealed by HSJ in February adding it was “just unfortunate that she’s picked up an illness”.

The CCG is currently working on an improvement plan, which is intended to address concerns over leadership, culture and bullying allegations following a critical independent investigation of the organisation. 

The investigation identified issues of poor behaviour by senior CCG staff, as well as dissatisfaction over the handling of bullying and harassment cases, a lack of a clear strategy and poor relationships between members of the governing body. Sources told HSJ the culture in the CCG was “toxic” with bullying, favouritism and harassment widespread.

The CCG’s medical director Zak McMurray was put on “special leave” with full pay for more than a year after he raised a whistleblowing concern against Maddy Ruff after she “demanded” the names of applicants for a senior post in the Sheffield health and care system.

Earlier this week, HSJ reported the CCG had hired former primary care trust chief executive Mike Potts as an independent development director who would oversee the production of an improvement plan. 

A report to the CCG’s May governing body, presented by Mr Hughes, said a steering group for the project had been set up, chaired by its lay member Chris Nield and with membership including “representatives from our staff forum”.

The improvement plan is due to be published in July.