WORKFORCE: Bullying is prevalent across the London Ambulance Service and the trust has a ‘blame culture’ in which bullies are perceived to have been rewarded, an independent review has found.
- Sixty-eight per cent of London Ambulance Service employees surveyed by independent review reported experiencing bullying or harassment
- Bullying allegations have not been “effectively investigated”
- “Shocked” trust chief executive says it has “completely accepted” review’s recommendations
The trust’s interim chief executive, Fionna Moore, said today that she was “shocked” by the report but “completely accepted” its recommendations.
The independent review, by the Andrea Adams Consultancy, was commissioned by the ambulance service in response to its 2013 NHS staff survey results. The review spoke confidentially to 327 of the trust’s more than 4,000 employees.
Sixty-eight per cent of those surveyed said they had been bullied or harassed in the workplace.
The report states: “Evidence suggests that bullying and harassment is prevalent across the whole organisation, including the [senior management team].”
Individuals reported they had suffered “severe” bullying and their health and wellbeing had been “compromised”.
There is a “blame culture” and one which is “overly focused on time targets rather than patient care and employee well being”, the report adds.
Bullies are also perceived to have been rewarded with promotion.
Bullying allegations have not been “effectively investigated” or “dealt with by appropriate sanction”.
The report also concludes that “good people managers” are not valued in the same way as “those who get results”.
Ms Moore said she was “shocked” and “really quite upset” by the report.
She added: “It’s something we deeply regret and we’ve completely accepted the recommendations.”
The organisation has drawn up an action plan which includes mandatory online training for all staff to raise awareness of bullying, one to one coaching sessions for senior managers and a telephone advisory line which employees are being encouraged to use if they feel they have experienced bullying or harassment.
The service has set aside £75,000 to fund these initiatives.
A £15,000 contingency fund will be set up to ensure that any concerns raised by staff following the publication of the report can be fully investigated.
Respondents were asked what type of bullying they had experienced. Responses came from 192 staff. Sixty-six per cent reported verbal abuse, 5 per cent reported physical abuse, 43 per cent said they had been made to feel isolated or ignored, and 18 per cent said they had experienced cyber bullying in the form of social media, emails or texts.
Others said they had experienced racism, sexism and false allegations made about them.
Twenty-four per cent of 190 respondents said the bullying had been going on for many years.
The report concludes from the responses that “speaking out is seen as career limiting and if you are identified as a ‘troublemaker’ then your career progression is halted”.
One respondent said the recent strike action calling for more pay was “not just about pay” and was “75-80 per cent” about the senior management team at the time.
Some employees said senior managers had invoked disciplinary action against individuals “inappropriately” and for small matters that could have been resolved through a conversation.
Some reported incidents “seemed to indicate that senior managers were out to entrap them”, the report states.
Ms Moore said the bullying was across the organisation, not just “top-down” from the senior management team.
She said: “As an organisation we need to draw a line in the sand and define what acceptable behaviour is, because the report shows that it’s not just top-down, its peer to peer, it’s frontline staff to managers, so it’s something that as an organisation we need to treat really seriously and make it clear that this is behaviour we will not tolerate.”
The review was completed in November last year. HSJ asked why eight months had lapsed between the report being completed and the publication of the report. Ms Moore said: “Over the winter period we had some fairly major challenges like winter pressures and there was a change of leadership at the end of January and we also didn’t want to release the report until we’d got the action plan finalised and the actions in place.”
Previous chief executive Ann Radmore left the service in January to take up a role in NHS England to help deliver the new care models.