• Document by ENHT said leadership behaviours from top of NHS led to bullying
  • Trust also says austerity, lack of capital and leadership behaviour has “exacerbated” staff recruitment and retention problems

Leadership behaviour from the “very top of the NHS” has led to an increase in bullying, according to an official strategy document produced by an acute trust.

East and North Hertfordshire Trust published its new people and organisation strategy in its January board papers, which was signed off by the finance and performance committee and included a section titled “operating context”.

Within this section, the report said: “Leadership behaviour from the very top of the NHS, during this time of pressure has led to an increase in accusations of bullying, harassment and discrimination.”

In a separate section, the paper noted the difficulties of being a healthcare professional, saying “many staff leave before they need to and many more cite bullying, over work and stress, as reasons for absence and mistakes”.

In a statement, Nick Carver, ENHT chief executive, said: “Our national leaders have given us a challenge to make the NHS the best place to work, and to improve leadership cultures. This strategy is our response, recognising that if we are to continue to improve, people must be our top priority — recruiting, retaining and developing a high-quality workforce.

“Our staff have clearly said that their local health leaders need to fully reflect the values of the NHS — we need to be self-reflective enough to see where we are falling short, and seek to be better for our people.”

NHS England’s interim people strategy, which was published in June last year, said staff can expect the NHS to tackle bullying and harassment. The final version of NHSE’s strategy is expected in the next few months.

NHS Improvement chair Baroness Dido Harding, who is leading on the People Plan, has frequently spoken of the need to address poor management cultures in parts of the service, while some local managers and clinicians frequently criticise the behaviours of national leaders.

NHSE/I were approached for comment.

ENHT’s strategy, which will run from 2020 to 2024, also said recruitment problems have been “exacerbated” by austerity measures, with staff having to “compensate” for a lack of capital needed to improve infrastructure.

The papers also warned that, without changing its people strategy, ENHT will “become unsustainable”. It continued: “This is not an exaggeration, it is clearly predicted by our financial and people projections.”