Study finds cul­ture of bul­ly­ing, sex­ism and ha­rass­ment in am­bu­lance ser­vice

Western Morning News (Saturday) - - News -

South West am­bu­lance staff sub­jected to a cul­ture of bul­ly­ing, dis­crim­i­na­tion, sex­ism and sex­u­alised be­hav­iour in the work­place de­serve an apol­ogy, trade union lead­ers said yes­ter­day.

Uni­son, which in­sti­gated the South Western Am­bu­lance Ser­vice NHS Foun­da­tion Trust to com­mis­sion an in­de­pen­dent study into work­ing for the or­gan­i­sa­tion, says it is dis­ap­pointed the trust’s chief ex­ec­u­tive has failed to is­sue an apol­ogy to em­ploy­ees.

The study has ex­posed the full ex­tent of the be­hav­iour, with staff ad­mit­ting to be­ing “too scared” to speak out. Some of those who did raise con­cerns re­port be­ing vic­timised or pe­nalised.

The “highly pres­surised” en­vi­ron­ment staff work in is said to have cre­ated high lev­els of “in­ci­vil­ity and dis­re­spect” be­tween all lev­els with the trust.

Uni­son says it was prompted to ask for the study to be con­ducted due to on­go­ing is­sues of bul­ly­ing and ha­rass­ment be­ing re­ported by its mem­bers.

Last Novem­ber, the trust agreed to pay for the full in­de­pen­dent cul­tural re­view to be car­ried out by Pro­fes­sor Dun­can Lewis, of Long­bow As­so­ci­ates Ltd and Ply­mouth Univer­sity, who is re­garded as an ex­pert in work­place stress, lead­er­ship/or­gan­i­sa­tional be­hav­iour, bul­ly­ing and ha­rass­ment re­search.

Prof Lewis was avail­able to do the four-month study in April and all staff were in­vited to take part via a sur­vey, and one-to-one tele­phone in­ter­views were con­ducted.

Bul­ly­ing and ha­rass­ment was re­ported by one in five staff, with cer­tain ar­eas be­ing iden­ti­fied as hot spots such as East Devon and Corn­wall.

The trust’s chief ex­ec­u­tive has de­scribed the study as the most “im­por­tant and sig­nif­i­cant re­port” he has read in 20 years, and says it has prompted the need for ac­tions to change the cul­ture within the trust. How­ever, no apol­ogy was made to those staff who have been af­fected by un­ac­cept­able be­hav­iour within the trust.

Uni­son branch sec­re­tary Chris Nel­son said: “We want the trust to ac­cept these things have hap­pened to our mem­bers and apol­o­gise for the cul­ture they have had to live in and en­dure for so long and to rem­edy it.

“Staff have wel­comed the re­port as it val­i­dates a lot of con­cerns peo­ple thought they were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing. Last week­end I met with some ex­em­ploy­ees and one thing that re­ally stood out for me was one par­tic­u­lar per­son who said he thought he was go­ing mad be­cause he was made to feel the prob­lems he faced were imag­i­nary. Af­ter be­ing briefed on the re­port he feels hap­pier be­cause it shows they were real.

Trust chief ex­ec­u­tive Ken Wen­man said: “The de­tail in Pro­fes­sor Lewis’ re­port will as­sist us in un­der­stand­ing how we cre­ate pos­i­tive change and im­proved ex­pe­ri­ences for our peo­ple. In my view, this is the most im­por­tant and sig­nif­i­cant re­port I’ve read in 20 years.”

He thanked staff for their “open­ness and brav­ery” in talk­ing about their ex­pe­ri­ences.

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