• The Dudley Group Foundation Trust has commissioned an external investigation into whistleblowing concerns about its executive board
  • The investigation is in response to a letter sent by senior medical staff claiming they no longer had confidence in the trust’s board
  • The letter claimed the trust had developed “a culture of bullying and intimidation”

Whistleblowing concerns from senior clinicians about the quality of leadership at an acute trust has forced the chair to commission an external investigation, HSJ can reveal.

The Dudley Group FT has commissioned the review after the chair and HSJ was sent a letter from 42 senior doctors raising concerns about executive directors, the trust has confirmed.

The letter, sent to trust chair Jenni Ord in July, claimed the authors no longer had confidence in the executive directors, including chief executive Diane Wake. They also claimed the trust had developed a “culture of bullying and intimidation where staff are too scared to raise concerns”.

The letter said following Ms Wake’s appointment in May 2017 there had been “a number of resignations from the executive board, some at very short notice, which affected the continuity and experience of the team.

“Subsequently there has been a significant deterioration in leadership style. Individual members or groups of staff are increasingly blamed for systemic failings.”

The trust confirmed to HSJ, it commissioned the Royal College of Physicians to carry out a review of its emergency department in May, after receiving warnings from the Care Quality Commission about the safety of its services.

Last week, the CQC published a critical report following a patient’s death, which prompted a second inspection into emergency services.

The whistleblowing letter said: “We, the undersigned, are writing to raise concerns about the senior management team at The Dudley Group FT - specifically Diane Wake (chief executive), Siobhan Jordan (chief nurse), Andrew McMenemy (head of HR), and Julian Hobbs (medical director).”

It added: “A culture of bullying and intimidation has rapidly developed, where staff are afraid to raise concerns in case they are scapegoated. This is having a very negative effect on staff morale, patient care and the safety agenda.”

The letter ends by saying the authors “no longer have confidence” in the executive directors and urged the chair to take action.

The document was also sent to NHS Improvement, NHS England, the CQC, and professional regulators.

A spokeswoman for the trust said: ”Our chair has been in regular contact with NHSI to agree how we will commission an external investigation into the concerns raised, overseen by NHSI. We have broadly finalised the terms of reference for this, with input from NHS England, and the clinical commissioniong groups.

“Our next steps are then to jointly select an external company to do a robust and independent investigation. Both the trust chair and NHS Improvement will be joint recipients of the investigation report.

“It is our intention that staff have the opportunity to engage with the investigation team in line with the terms of reference, and we will be exploring with the chosen provider how that might work.”

A spokeswoman for NHSI confirmed it had received “concerns” from staff at the trust and would be considering the information in line with its whistleblowing policy.

Story was updated at 14:10 after the trust requested incorrect information it had supplied in its statement be removed.