‘Radical’ plan revealed to remedy bullying culture at NHS Lothian

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THE chairman of NHS Lothian has laid out a “radical” plan to cure the bullying culture that led to the deliberate falsification of waiting list figures.

Dr Charles Winstanley has revealed that every manager in acute services will face an assessment of their competence and capability, while the health board’s acute services and head office management teams will be merged.

A new independent body will run a whistleblowing line for staff and a new written code of values will be published following a consultation with workers across NHS 

The measures are included within a 12-point action plan agreed by the nine-member Management Culture and Governance Information Implementation Group, which has been set up in the wake of two damning external reports produced earlier this year.

The reports revealed that a “undermining, intimidating, demeaning, threatening and hostile working environment” existed in areas of NHS Lothian and that under-pressure staff had been deliberately manipulating waiting list figures to hit targets.

Dr Winstanley said: “It’s about saying to senior 
managers ‘this is how we lead people in NHS Lothian – no other way is acceptable’. Once you agree with staff what the values are and the ethos is, the culture should flow from that.

“It may mean that in the new culture there is far more discussion of some seemingly insoluble problems, but at least the discussion is happening and not being suppressed.

“I would much rather be faced with huge complexity that the board could contribute to resolving than be brought just good news, some of it false, which is where we were before.”

Management at acute services and the board’s head office will merge from Monday, in an attempt to bridge a communication gap between clinical staff and the top bosses at the health board.

Dr Winstanley admitted that some members of staff had lost sight of key values and that some managers at the health board were not fit to perform their roles.

New employees may be asked to sign up to a set of values, which are set to be agreed following a consultation with staff and unions this year.

“It’s not meant to be simply a logo to set on signs, it’s got to be a real change of attitude and approach,” Dr Winstanley added. “On the culture we have already started the work and I would hope that by the end of this year we have a very different culture within Lothian.”

Disciplinary proceedings against an unnamed number of staff initiated following the waiting list scandal are set to be completed within weeks.

12-point plan

• Hire new permanent chief exec

• Managers must agree a set of values to deal with staff

• Merge management of the acute division and head office

• A new written code of principles

• Review of every manager in acute services within NHS Lothian to assess competence

• A clear dignity at work policy

• A new confidential whistleblowing line run by an independent body

• A new system for escalating and communicating concerns about performance

• Ensure NHS Lothian policies are clear and written in plain English

• “Surrogate” systems to be set up to ensure data board receives is accurate

• Review committee group structures

• System for checking issues are getting better