Union ‘witch hunt’ claims denied by East Sussex NHS

Eastbourne DGH
Eastbourne DGH

Bosses at the East Sussex NHS Trust have been accused of ‘bullying’ staff after a recent inspection of its hospitals.

NHS Union GMB said the trust was trying to find out who spoke to CQC inspectors at a recent visit.

Darren Grayson Chief Executive Officer East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust.

Darren Grayson Chief Executive Officer East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust.

Gary Palmer, GMB Organiser, said, “Worried staff contacted GMB over what appears to be a witch hunt by chief executive Darren Grayson and his management team on this.

“The chief executive has requested his commercial services deputy director to get his managers to press staff for the names of those who spoke up for staff and patients to the CQC privately.

“He wants the names of staff not afraid to try and protect services by openly talking of their concerns to CQC.

“Staff were told that they could not attend the initial public listening event in Eastbourne by the trust.

“Some of the staff, who rightfully refused that instruction, decided that as residents and users of the hospital services that they did have the right to attend, only then to be disgracefully prevented from attending on the night and being turned away at the door.

“For others such was the concern about being able to freely speak to inspectors without trust interference that the CQC decided to put on a further event in Eastbourne at the Grand Hotel for staff to be able to come along and talk to them out of the workplace and in confidence. Managers should call off hunt for names and tackle the culture of bullying within the trust that has been brought about by a poor management, lack of communication and respect and a requirement to remove finances from the trust as soon as possible.

“GMB members believe this retaliatory approach by managers is because, rather than following the trust edict to stay within a prepared brief on how and what to say to inspectors should they be asked a question, they opted to raise real and legitimate concerns in an effort to protect all they value within the trust and the NHS.”

Trust response

The leader of the NHS trust has vehemently denied allegations of a ‘witch hunt’ or bullying within the organisation.

Darren Grayson, chief executive of the East Sussex NHS Trust spoke out against the claims of the GMB union.

“There is no truth whatsoever in this,” said Mr Grayson.

“I call upon Gary Palmer and the GMB to provide the evidence or stop their campaign of lies and distortion.

“The two listening events were organised and independently run by the CQC themselves for patients and the local community to express their view about the care we provide. We had no involvement in these events at all.

“I am proud and pleased with the way our staff engaged with the CQC during their recent inspection.

“The CQC organised over 25 staff focus groups and in their informal feedback to me the CQC noted the very positive engagement from staff.

“The GMB is a small union with a very small and declining membership of our staff as they leave alienated by the aggressive and unprincipled approach of Gary Palmer.

“It is a union that has no influence or credibility in this organisation or with our staff.”

Mr Palmer, of GMB said, “We are one of the largest unions within the trust.

“We have a significant membership. We’re talking 600-700 people across the trust.

“The trust continue to exclude us as we bring a message from the staff on the issues they face.

We’re now going to have to see what comes out from the CQC.”

He claims the union is still receiving calls from ‘panicked’ staff who spoke to the CQC inspectors, and denies the union’s claims are lies, but ‘facts’.

“There was an email from the trust sent out telling people not to go to the events,” he said.

The inspection report into the East Sussex NHS Trust by the CQC is due to be published in mid-November.