• NHS Improvement chief says trusts should not “tolerate a return to the bad days, if that ever existed, even if it was perceived to exist – they shouldn’t tolerate it”
  • Mackey: “I would encourage people, if they’re on the end of something that doesn’t feel right, to challenge it”

Trust leaders “shouldn’t tolerate” bullying or disrespectful behaviour from regulators, the NHS Improvement chief executive has said.

Jim Mackey and the organisation’s chair, Ed Smith, have taken action aimed at ensuring organisations and their leaders are not mistreated. Mr Mackey said in December: “At no time is it acceptable for anyone to be bullying, intimidating or aggressive… no one will be shouted at, no one will be intimidated or bullied or made to do anything they can’t do.”

Ed Smith

Ed smith

Ed Smith and Jim Mackey are leaving NHSI later this year

Mr Mackey is leaving the organisation in the autumn, to return to his substantive post as Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust chief executive, and Mr Smith is expected to retire in the summer.

Asked about how the regulator can maintain this priority on culture, Mr Mackey said he believed it would continue as “the sector wanted it and people [at NHS Improvement] wanted to do that”.

He said: “The people who follow Ed and I will be recruited with a similar sort of brief and hopefully similar values, and frankly I hope the sector wouldn’t tolerate a return to the bad days, if that ever existed, even if it was perceived to exist – they shouldn’t tolerate it.”

Mr Mackey suggested that often problems involved an intervention, which was fair, but “the tone” used by regulators “wasn’t right”. He said communicating things in the right way was “really important to the way Ed works and the way I want to work”.

He added: “If I’m back out in the [provider] sector and someone tries to do that to me in the wrong way, I’m not going to accept it…

“I would never have accepted it but it’s not easy at times for everybody to say, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t think you’ve been as respectful as you should have been.’

“We need everybody to hold that standard so I would encourage people, if they’re on the end of something that doesn’t feel right, to challenge it.

“If you don’t feel able to challenge it, talk to somebody who can challenge it for you, but don’t just accept it. Because these things can just run away with you very quickly.”