• SATH chair has commissioned independent review of whistleblower’s allegations 
  • Les Small wrote to CQC over way trust handled his concerns

The chair of Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust has commissioned an independent review, following allegations the trust failed to properly investigate concerns around asbestos exposure.

In a letter seen by HSJ, the Care Quality Commission said Ben Reid had ordered an independent review of issues raised by whistleblower Les Small.

Mr Small raised concerns about asbestos exposure while working as a project manager for the trust in 2012. He was subsequently sacked, with an employment tribunal later ruling that he had been dismissed unfairly.

He went on to alert the Health and Safety Executive about the issues in 2015, which led to the trust being fined earlier this year.

In December 2018, Mr Small wrote to the CQC to call for an independent investigation into how the trust had handled the asbestos concerns, and what he described as the “bullying culture” which led to him being sacked for raising the issues.

In a response to Mr Small on 22 July 2019, the CQC said: “We are writing to inform you that the chair of Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals Trust has confirmed that he has commissioned an independent review of the concerns you have raised.”

The trust confirmed there would be an independent review, but said it could not yet say who the reviewer would be, or the terms of reference.

Mr Reid, who joined the trust in January 2018, said in a statement: “We are always looking to improve the way we do things and examine if there are any lessons we can learn, which is why we will be carrying out this review.”

The trust’s executive team has seen significant turnover since September last year, with the chief executive, deputy chief executive, medical director, finance director, chief nurse, and head of midwifery all leaving their posts.

Last year, HSJ reported how staff at SATH raised allegations of bullying to councillor Shaun Davies. At the time, Mr Davies raised his concerns with NHS Improvement and asked for an independent investigation.

In November last year, the trust was rated “inadequate” overall and “inadequate” for well-led. In its report, the CQC found “staff reported a culture of bullying and harassment and at times we found a culture of defensiveness from the executive team”.

A spokeswoman for the CQC said: “We followed up with the trust to request further information following concerns Mr Small shared with CQC in December last year. In response they have commissioned an independent review to look at the case in question. We await the outcome of that review to determine whether any action is required on our part.” 

A spokeswoman for NHS Improvement said: “Previous concerns raised by Mr Small contributed to NHS Improvement’s work with the trust last year on its approach to Freedom to Speak Up, to ensure anyone raising concerns about the organisation is listened to and supported.”