• Local authority leader has called for an independent body to look into claims of bullying made by staff at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust 
  • Councillor Shaun Davis said he has been contacted by multiple staff with allegations of bullying in the organisation

A local authority leader has called for an independent investigation into allegations of bullying made by staff at a scandal hit-trust, HSJ can reveal

Councillor Shaun Davies, leader of Telford and Wrekin Council, has called for an “independent body” to look into multiple allegations of bullying, made to him, by staff at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust. 

Speaking with HSJ, Mr Davies said he had been contacted by staff “over many months” who had raised concerns and direct allegations of bullying. 

He added: “I’ve contacted the Department for Health and Social Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement raising these concerns. The trust board has also been contacted by myself with these concerns. I am frustrated that concerns have not been dealt with by an independent body.”

According to a letter, seen by HSJ, Mr Davies wrote to NHS Improvement in June highlighting he had received an email from a doctor in the trust who said issues of bullying meant staff were too scared to speak out.

In a subsequent letter, sent in July, the councillor said another member of staff told him they were warned not to leak information given in a staff briefing about emergency services, “as disciplinary action would follow”.

The news comes after the Care Quality Commission sent the trust a warning notice amid claims from staff that patients were being treated like “cattle”.

One former clinician who resigned from Shrewsbury and Telford earlier this year and has contacted HSJ on the condition of anonymity said there was “a culture of fear” within the trust.

They added: “Staff satisfaction survey has got worse; the Board has to address this. I dreaded making a mistake- people don’t speak up.

“I thought the focus on targets made me and the team feel very anxious and pressured. Staff are told it is a “sackable offence” to have a 12 hour breach. I know this kind of pressure affects how decisions are made.”

According to a letter sent in response to Councillor Davis from NHS Improvement, the regulator has asked its head of enquiries, complaints and whistleblowing to “support a board development session” at the trust in relation to “freedom to speak up guardian” arrangements. 

Responding to Mr Davies’ claims that staff at the trust were threatened with disciplinary action, NHS Improvement said the organisation’s workforce director had assured them no threats had taken place.

Victoria Maher, director of workforce for the trust, said: “As an organisation we are concerned that members of our staff are reporting this. This is not how we want any of our people to feel.”

Ms Maher told HSJ the trust was launching a campaign called “we value respect” in response to feedback from the recent NHS staff survey and that it had increased the hours of its two freedom to speak up guardians.

She added: “We are aware of concerns raised by Telford and Wrekin Council’s leader and our chair has spoken with him to discuss these further so we can continue to work closely together to alleviate any concerns our staff may have. As a result of this open-ended offer our chair has met twice with staff to hear their concerns.” 

A spokeswoman for NHS Improvement said: “We are aware of the concerns raised by Councillor Davies. NHS Improvement is working with the trust to support its approach to freedom to speak up [FTSU]. Where staff raise concerns with us directly, they are always considered in line with the relevant policies.”

NHS England and the DHSC were approached for comment.

This story was updated at 14:32 after HSJ recieved comment from NHS Improvement