South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) has responded to a damning Care Quality Commission inspection which found that bullying, harassment and inappropriate sexualised behaviour at the Trust were not addressed and became normalised behaviours.
The CQC inspection was carried out after a number of whistleblowers came forward. The CQC has suspended the overall ratings for the trust while it carries out further checks. The last inspection in July 2019, rated the trust good in all five areas.
Amanda Williams, CQC’s director of integrated care, said:
“We carried out this inspection of South East Coast Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust in response to concerns raised with us around culture and leadership.
”Our inspectors found that staff on the front line were doing their utmost to provide safe and effective care and treatment of patients across Kent, Surrey and Sussex. They were doing a good job, especially in light of the additional pressures on the service caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“But while staff were doing their very best to provide safe care to patients, leaders often appeared out of touch with what was happening on the front line and weren’t always aware of the challenges staff faced. Staff described feeling unable to raise concerns without fear of reprisal - and when concerns were raised, these were not acted on.
"This meant that some negative aspects of the organisational culture, including bullying and harassment and inappropriate sexualised behaviour, were not addressed and became normalised behaviours. I want to praise those staff who were brave enough to come forward, as speaking up in these circumstances is not easy, but it is important that it happens.
“There was a clear disconnect between leaders and staff, leading to a poor and unsupportive culture, As a result, the leadership for the trust as a whole has been rated inadequate, while the emergency operation centre, and NHS 111, was rated as good overall.
Responding to the damning report, SECAMB issued the following statement:
"The serious concerns surrounding culture and leadership highlighted by the CQC are being taken extremely seriously and we have already begun the work to implement improvements at pace, taking on board early feedback from the CQC as well as feedback from our own staff survey.
"We are pleased to have appointed a new Interim Chief Executive – Siobhan Melia – last week; Siobhan, who takes up her role on 12 July, has a strong clinical background and is an experienced Chief Executive, with good knowledge of our region and our partners.
"An important campaign – ‘Until it Stops’ – is being rolled out to address inappropriate behaviours and we are committed to working with colleagues across the organisation to implement changes and ensure they view SECAmb as a place at which they want to work and deliver high-quality care to our patients."
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