• The staff side committee has passed a ‘no confidence vote’ 
  • Concerns raised about understaffed wards
  • Union calls on regulators to reinvestigate 
  • HR regime criticised for caring more about employees’ sock colour than grievances

Unions at United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust have passed a ‘no confidence vote’ in its senior management because of patient safety concerns.

Unite staff side committee, along with other staff side unions, has passed a vote at the trust, which is currently in special measures and encompasses Lincoln County Hospital, Grantham and District Hospital, Pilgrim Hospital and County Hospital in Louth.

In a letter sent to interim trust chair Elaine Baylis, the staff side committee highlighted problems with understaffing and said significant concerns had been raised on a number of occasions. 

The letter read: “These issues we now believe are so significant that there is now an irretrievable breakdown in partnership working and the staff side committee has no confidence with their trust board.”

Unite also called for regulators to revisit the trust for a more thorough investigation. 

Unite regional officer Steve Syson said: “NHS Improvement and the Care Quality Commission have already inspected the trust’s services in April this year finding four key areas of care at the trust requiring improvement, but we feel that a second visit by these two organisations needs to happen for a more indepth probe into the conduct of the trust.”

The committee also called on the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service to intervene to help “develop a working partnership”.

Mr Syson said, instead of tackling understaffing in the wards there is a “petty HR regime… more concerned about the colour of socks employees wear than dealing with staff grievances”.

In deciding to keep the trust in special measures earlier this year, the CQC said it found managers at United Lincolnshire were “consumed by operational issues”.

Commenting on the vote of no confidence, the trust’s director of human resources and organisational development Martin Rayson said: “Providing top quality patient care is always our number one priority. The trust has made significant improvements over recent years going from an ‘inadequate’ CQC rating to ‘requires improvement’, and we believe we are now on track to come out of special measures.”

Mr Rayson said changes at the trust may have caused “additional pressures”, but stressed it had been working closely with staff to ensure improvements are managed properly. 

“We are very disappointed that Unite has decided to take this approach, especially as we recently held a facilitated workshop to resolve any issues of partnership working,” he said. “Unfortunately we have not been given the opportunity to respond to any of the union’s latest concerns but are happy to sit down with them to find a resolution.”

HSJ reported last month that chief executive Jan Sobieraj will retire in spring 2019 after three years at the trust.