A nurse who says she experienced bullying, harassment and racism while working at Nottingham University Hospitals says the trust is now starting to change.
The trust which runs the Queen’s Medical Centre and Nottingham City Hospital employs 19,000 staff, around 26 per cent of whom are from ethnic minority backgrounds.
The Chief Executive of the trust, Anthony May, today faced questions from Nottingham City Councillors on how it is tackling bullying and racism after issues were raised in a critical Care Quality Commission (CQC) report.
Concerns over the leadership of the organisation were so serious that the Trust was served with a warning notice after the 2021 inspection – requiring them to make widespread changes.
Mr May joined the trust in September 2022 and quickly set out a commitment to tackling bullying and racism.
He attended the health scrutiny committee on February 16, alongside colleagues Onyinye Enwezor BEM, Chair of the BAME Shared Governance Council and Richard Holder, Chair of the BAME Network.
Ms Enwezor told of how she had faced bullying, harassment and racism at the trust in 2017 – but added that the trust is on a journey to recovery.
She said after the meeting: “When I applied for a senior role within the trust, unfortunately, I was treated unfairly.
“It was unpleasant and painful. I did cry and had my moments at home. But I didn’t want to dwell on it, so I decided to make something positive come out of it.
“I want to ensure nobody goes through the same experience that I did.
“We are on a journey, I would be lying if I said we are there yet. It takes time for culture to change.
“The fact that Anthony calls out racism is a huge relief. It has given me that confidence and empowered me to keep going.
“But the most important thing is Anthony May has acknowledged the hurt, the bullying, harassment and racism and he has fully stated he will not tolerate it.”
Richard Holder, Chair of the BAME network, added that he has heard from staff who have not been given fair opportunities, as well as accusations of nepotism.
He said: “I’ve been with NUH since August 2021 and I have to say it felt really oppressive.
“I decided I wanted to do something so I went for the role of chair of the BAME network.
“I have seen the organisation stuck in front of the headlights for a while, and slowly but surely it is starting to move forward, and it is because Anthony has joined us.
“When these things get into organisations, they take time to unroot and pull out.”
A report by NUH prepared ahead of the meeting said some staff reported that “bullying [was] becoming the norm” and “there is a lack of trust in the processes to achieve resolution”.
Mr May gave examples of work which is now being carried out including ‘reverse mentoring’ where people from ethnic minority backgrounds mentor leaders within the organisation.
He said the trust has also formed a new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committee, as well as three full-time ‘Freedom to Speak Up Guardians’
who support staff with concerns.
Mr May said after the meeting that he has an “emotional reaction” when he hears of allegations of racism and bullying in the trust.
He said: “It makes me feel sad, upset and angry and absolutely resolved to do something about it.
“Sometimes people stop me at events or in the corridor and they confide in me and I try to signpost them to help.
“If it gets to that stage where that constitutes gross misconduct, absolutely someone could lose their job.
“I wouldn’t rule anything out in circumstances like this because nobody should come to work and be bullied or harassed.”
He added that his “inclination” is that the CQC will reinspect NUH this year on the ‘well led’ judgement.
Cllr Georgia Power (Lab), chair of the health scrutiny committee, said she still hears concerns about bullying and racism from residents and through trade unions.
She said after the meeting: “We heard all the right things today, what I’m concerned about is that we’ve heard a lot of this before.
“It’s been really difficult with NUH to manage that progress and hold them to account on what they are saying.”