NURSES at the Alexandra Hospital are subjected to bullying, harassment and intimidation a former worker has claimed.
Mandy Bridgman says the situation became so bad she was forced to take early retirement after working at the Woodrow Drive site as an A&E nurse for almost 30 years and is the reason why 26 staff left the hospital during a two year period up to 2013.
The claim comes as a Freedom to Speak Up review led by Sir Robert Francis, who investigated failings at Stafford Hospital, found NHS staff too often faced bullying and being isolated when they tried to raise concerns, while others were scared of being victimised so kept quiet.
Mrs Bridgman said during her time she was repeatedly spoken to aggressively, had keys snatched out of her hand and was harassed over ensuring patients did not breach the four hour waiting time A&E target. She was signed off sick in June 2013 after being criticised because a patient was not seen within four hours and retired in April last year.
“I was just in tears and thought I can’t take this pressure anymore.”she said.
“Any which way they could they were having a snipe at you.
“I was on antidepressants and hiding from the postman, it got that bad.”
She added: “I’ve been through 36 years of nursing and I did not expect the biggest problem through that would be my managers.”
Mrs Bridgman claimed when she sent an email to raise concerns with the chief nurse, she was shouted at for not following the proper process and after finally making a formal complaint towards the end of 2012, she found gobstopper sweets in her locker, which she believes was a message to her to shut her mouth.
In other incidents staff have been reduced to tears after being shouted at by senior nurses in front of patients and in corridors, referred to as imbeciles and even threatened to have their registration to work taken off them.
They were also warned if they did not collect enough responses from patients relating to the Friends and Family Test they would be subjected to a ‘conversation of concern’ which would be placed on their file.
An investigation by Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust found there was no substantial evidence to prove any of Mrs Bridgman’s claims but did find there were management issues and the words bullying and harassment ‘seem to be more common place during conversations and during staff interactions than would appear to be normal’.
But Mrs Bridgman has questioned the findings due to issues with the investigation process, but attempts to have it re-opened have failed.
She is not the only one to raise concerns. Minutes from a staff meeting in March 2011, seen by the Standard, revealed junior nurses had raised concerns about bullying by senior staff saying their attitude was condescending and at times they were spoken to like five-year-olds.
Chris Tidman, Trust deputy chief executive, said the claims had been fully investigated and while it was agreed there were some ‘relationship issues’ within the A&E department they did not amount to bullying and harassment.
He added they had active whistleblowing, bullying and harassment policies and encouraged staff to raise concerns, including through regular meetings with the chief executive, Trust chairman and senior directors, and any issues raised were investigated.
“It is normal and healthy for there to be differences of opinion between colleagues particularly when they are working to deliver high quality patient care in a high-pressured area like an A&E department. What is important is differences are aired and considered by all parties and that colleagues respect each other’s views when working together.” he said.
“We agree it is not acceptable to call colleagues names and staff have been reminded of the importance of treating everyone – staff, patients and visitors – with respect at all times.”
He added the allegation relating to the departure of the 26 A&E staff because of bullying had been investigated and found to be untrue.
In response to the Freedom to Speak Up report, the role of the Trust’s ‘Being Open Champion’ – carried out by non-executive director Stephen Howarth – is being strengthened.
Whistleblowing will also be a permanent item discussed at the Trust’s monthly public board meetings and directors will be responsible to advise the board if they are aware of any whistleblowing activity.
A review of the Trust’s whistleblowing policies will also now take place.
Trust chairman Harry Turner said: “The Board and I are determined to build a Trust with the highest standards, and the only way we can do this is if our staff feel listened to if they speak out about patient care, and that it is understood by everyone that bullying, intimidation and victimisation has no place.”