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Act on mental health and sexual harassment, ambulance bosses told after staff deaths

PUBLISHED: 13:59 13 May 2020 | UPDATED: 08:52 14 May 2020

The funeral of one of the ambulance workers, Luke Wright, took place in December 2019 at Breckland Crematorium, Norfolk. Photo: Archant

The funeral of one of the ambulance workers, Luke Wright, took place in December 2019 at Breckland Crematorium, Norfolk. Photo: Archant

Archant

An investigator has told the ambulance service to tackle sexual harassment and improve mental health support following the sudden deaths of three workers.

Dorothy Hosein, chief Executive of EEAST
, said an action plan had been drawn up from the investigation into the deaths. Photo: ArchantDorothy Hosein, chief Executive of EEAST , said an action plan had been drawn up from the investigation into the deaths. Photo: Archant

Managers will get more training and staff will be given earlier help to protect mental health, the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) said today, after it published the findings of an independent investigation into the deaths.

It also revealed that at the same time it is holding three other investigations into threats to kill made by a paramedic, sexual harassment, and a whistleblower’s claims about the workplace as part of a wider push to improve the trust’s culture.

The investigation into the staff deaths began in December 2019 after three workers - Luke Wright, 24, an ambulance dispatcher from Norwich, paramedic Christopher Gill, 41, from Welwyn Garden City and paramedic Richard Grimes from Luton - all died suddenly between November 10 and 21 last year.

The deaths led to heavy criticism of mental health help for staff and the EEAST’s working culture.

Luke Wright, 24, from Norwich died on November 10 2019. Picture: Wright FamilyLuke Wright, 24, from Norwich died on November 10 2019. Picture: Wright Family

The investigation interviewed over 40 witnesses, including the families of the three staff members, and published 12 recommendations on Wednesday.

The recommendations do not state which death they relate to and the Trust said it will not publish the entire report. They included:

-Risk assess staff before they are suspended

-Support staff on sick leave

-Tackle sexual harassment

-Produce guidance on how to manage death of ambulance workers

-Train managers to help staff with mental health issues

Another recommendation is that EEAST looks at the three investigations into the workplace, threats to kill and sexual harassment to find any common themes.

The East of England Ambulance Trust investigated three sudden deaths of staff members last year. Photo: EEASTThe East of England Ambulance Trust investigated three sudden deaths of staff members last year. Photo: EEAST

EEAST’s chief executive Dorothy Hosein said: “This investigation brings home clearly that the Trust must do more to support the mental health of staff if they suffer problems or anxiety in their private, family or work life.

“I am committed to instilling a culture which sees, respects and cares for all staff as individuals.

“To do this, we will move fast to improve our well-being policies and practice so they recognise and support the whole person, in and out of uniform.”

The Trust has come up with an action plan to make sure all 12 recommendations are followed, it said.

It includes introducing suicide prevention strategies and changing the behaviour of some staff and managers which allow sexual harassment to “thrive”, the report said.

It should carry out an anonymous staff survey as part of this, the recommendations presented to the EEAST’s board on Wednesday read.

Another recommendation is to remind managers about being open and honest, known as a “Duty of Candour”.

Ms Hosein said half of the action plan would be completed by the end of this month, with all the recommendations addressed by the end of September.

Luke Wright's funeral in December 2019. Photo: ArchantLuke Wright's funeral in December 2019. Photo: Archant

She added: “Losing three members of our staff in tragic circumstances is extremely sad.

“Each of these separate incidents reveals a deeply personal story and a terrible loss with a huge impact on families, close colleagues and across the wider service.

“We all know work and home life are not easily separated. Staff wellbeing is influenced by personal, family and other relationships and experiences, as well as their employment.

“This has not been reflected in some of our policies and management of issues, which are still too tightly focused on just workplace performance.

“Every day our staff do fantastic work at the frontline of healthcare and often in very demanding circumstances. That is more true today than ever before.”

The inquest into Luke Wright’s death opened in March at Norfolk Coroner’s Court and will be concluded this July.

It heard the 24-year old died on November 10 in Waxham from carbon monoxide poisoning.

His brother Daniel said after the hearing: “Luke was a brilliant Dad, he loved his little girl to bits, he’d never be without her.

“As soon as he entered a room he’d make himself known, he’d always have a laugh, he had a great sense of humour, he was brilliant.”

•Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or by emailing jo@samaritans.org


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