WORKFORCE: Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh foundation trust will this month launch a whistleblowers’ hotline, after a 2010 review found a “culture of bullying” left some staff scared to raise safety concerns.

The phone line to allow staff to report issues without going through “normal line management structures” was one of the recommendations of an August 2010 governance review by PricewaterhouseCoopers, a trust board paper from March reveals.

The review found there were areas of the foundation trust “where staff did not believe that they [were] able to raise genuinely held concerns about patient safety with more senior colleagues”.

The board paper continues: “In some cases, a culture of bullying was cited and ‘junior staff keep their heads down’ and did not report such incidents for fear of retribution.”

It adds that PwC’s findings were supported by the 2009 NHS staff survey. It found the percentages of respondents from the trust experiencing discrimination at work, bullying or abuse from staff and physical violence from staff were all in the bottom fifth of trusts nationally.

The paper, however, notes that since last August the organisation has been addressing the 60 recommendations within the PwC report.

The 2010 staff survey also showed improvement, with its scores better than average for staff perception of fairness of incident reporting procedures, and on staff experiencing physical violence from other staff.

But, in spite of this, the percentage of staff reporting harassment or bullying from colleagues remained worse than average for acute trusts. The proportion reporting good communication between senior management and staff “scored in the worst 20 per cent of acute trusts in 2009 and unfortunately has seen a further deterioration in 2010”, the paper said.

In a statement to HSJ, the trust acknowledged that “issues were identified for improvement” in both the governance review reported by PwC and in the 2010 NHS staff survey.

Director of human resources and organisational development Jon Lenney said: “Since the staff survey was completed in November 2010, we have approved and initiated a number of actions which we believe will address 
the main areas where improvement is required. We look forward to improved results in the 2011 survey.”