A REVIEW into allegations of bullying at the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust has cleared the Trust's leadership of a ‘systemic’ culture of intimidation and bullying towards staff.

A review into the Trust, carried out by solicitors Capsticks, was launched after an anonymous letter from 42 staff members to the Trust's chairman last July accused the Trust leadership of bullying behaviour to the detriment of ‘staff morale, patient care and the safety agenda’.

A summary report of the review has been published today (March 8), investigating claims that the Trust’s leadership team had poor communication and engagement with clinical teams, along with accusations of systemic bullying and intimidation.

Although the review found no evidence of a ‘systemic culture of bullying and intimidation by the Trust leadership’ it did acknowledge that there have been instances of behaviour by members of the leadership team that were 'perceived' by others as bullying and harassment, but these instances were not supported by documentary evidence.

The ‘direct’ management style of the leadership team was also dubbed as ‘aggressive’ by some interviewees.

The effectiveness of the Trust whistleblowing service, the Freedom to Speak Up process, was also questioned, with the report stating that staff felt it was a 'superficial' approach which they did not have trust or confidence in.

The review also noted that leadership did not always show 'role model behaviour' to other staff members, citing the example of leadership figures parking in disabled bays on the hospital car park when they were not always entitled to do so.

Diana Wake, Chief Executive of the Trust, said she welcomed the report and is committed to working with staff to implement its recommendations.

She acknowledged that staff's lack of trust in the whistleblowing service was a 'concern'.

She said: "Our staff deserve to work in a working environment where they are not subject to bullying or harassment.

"If they are subject to that, it is incumbent upon us to make sure that there’s the right processes in place to be made aware of that and take appropriate action if that is happening.

"Our staff are our most important asset in the Trust to deliver safe care to the patients of Dudley. It’s important to me that they work in a culture which is safe and allows them to raise concerns."

She added that the Trust is now undergoing a mediation process to help the strained relationship between the leadership and clinicians.

She also said it was 'not acceptable' for staff to park in disabled parking spaces without the correct permissions and confirmed this was no longer happening at the Trust.

The union which represents some of the staff involved however, has branded the report a 'whitewash'.

Rob Quick, National Officer of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association, said: "It is highly unusual to see 42 doctors put their heads above the parapet and collectively make such a serious complaint.

“The Trust have kept this so-called independent report under wraps for months and now we see why.

“Hospital doctors at the Trust are understandably incensed by this attempt to whitewash and sanitise the issue.

“We are concerned that staff morale, which is already low, will be dealt a further blow by this report’s total denial of the depth of the problem.

“This cannot be allowed to be the last word on the issue. We will now be pressing for a full independent inquiry to look at the facts in an unbiased way.”