Thirteen allegations of sexual misconduct reported to police at troubled ambulance trust
- Credit: EEAST
Thirteen cases of sexual misconduct and predatory behaviour by staff at a troubled ambulance trust have been reported to police, the health regulator has revealed.
They include allegations that workers at the East of England Ambulance Trust (EEAST) abused patients - but management failed to deal with the claims properly.
In three incidents they did not suspend staff because the workers were on holiday or sick leave.
Seven whistleblowers stepped forward to regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which on Wednesday released the findings of its inspection.
Inspectors said: “The trust did not have effective safeguarding procedures to prevent the abuse of service users and staff in relation to criminal allegations made against staff.”
The CQC also found a culture of bullying was “normalised”, while the leadership was accused by staff of being “faceless”.
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The report also revealed:
• A culture of tolerance and a long history of prolific and predatory sexual harassment within a specific ambulance base in the region.
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• The board was aware of at least ten incidents between April 2019 to March 2020 that related to serious allegations of sexual assault, harassment or inappropriate behaviour. They had failed to take appropriate action to ensure the safety of patients and staff.
• Evidence in some areas of the organisation that there was acceptance of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour.
• A collusive approach from managers and staff who knew of sexual harassment, and acceptance of this as normalised behaviour - perpetuating an unacceptable working environment for recipients of the behaviour.
Inspectors added: “A number of staff told us that nepotism, cliques and favouritism were commonplace within the organisation.
“Staff told us that people were being promoted because of who they knew, rather than being the right person for the role.”
Inspectors also encountered a leadership team which “fostered” abuse and said senior figures were “combative and defensive” when challenged.
The watchdog added that 13 instances of sexual misconduct were made to police between April 2019 and March 2020.
But the EEAST would not say what the outcome of those reports to police were.
A spokesman said: “We are clear that any inappropriate behaviour is unacceptable and will take robust action when needed.”
EEAST could now be plunged into special measures following a recommendation from the CQC’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Ted Baker.
Enforcing special measures means the EEAST would be given extra support by NHS England - and ordered to make changes.
Chief executive Dorothy Hosein had pledged to turn the troubled organisation around when she took over in 2018, but last year the CQC gave it the second lowest rating of “requires improvement”.
Its staff were, however, praised for providing “outstanding” care.
The leadership has insisted it will stay on, despite being rated “inadequate” by the CQC.
Chair of EEAST Nicola Scrivings, who was appointed in October 2019, said: “We will now do everything possible, as fast as possible, to make the improvements required.
“We are working closely with the CQC, NHS colleagues and other partners to take action right now to address these concerns.”
Asked if the leadership should resign, she said: “This leadership team has delivered improvements over the past year with better performance and more staff on the ground, but it is clear that there is more to do on culture.
“A stable leadership team is an important part of driving cultural change and we are getting extra support from the NHS and elsewhere to help the leadership team succeed.”