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Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust report reveals 'culture of bullying'

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The region’s mental health trust has been blasted for discussing in private a report into its staff culture of 'bullying and lack of respect' – at a meeting meant to be open to the public.

The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), branded the worst mental health trust in England, unveiled a report on its staff culture ahead of a meeting of senior directors, held on Thursday, May 21.

The report described the trust’s environment as ‘characterised by bullying, disempowerment, lack of respect and unreasonableness’.

The Wedgwood unit in Bury St Edmunds which is run by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (35099172)
The Wedgwood unit in Bury St Edmunds which is run by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (35099172)

And NSFT, which remained in special measures following its latest inspection in January this year, have been slammed for the 'disappointing' move of holding discussions behind closed doors.

At Thursday’s meeting, held remotely, the public were barred from listening to the board’s conversations – despite the agenda describing it as a 'public session'.

A trust spokeswoman said the meeting would not be recorded or subsequently broadcast, but the trust would publish any decisions taken by the end of May.

A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said: “It should be an opportunity to increase access by streaming the meeting, but rather than take that opportunity they’re not even letting anyone in. It’s incredibly disappointing."

The trust’s spokeswoman said: “We are fully committed to being a transparent organisation in our decision making, and public board meetings are an important part of this process. We are trialling the technologies so people can play a part and will be answering any questions by Saturday, May 30.”

Problems highlighted in the report included a poor leadership culture, lack of respect and shared values and a top down culture, a pattern of discrimination and complaints of harassment and bullying.

The report says NSFT wants to change its culture by developing leadership and embedding its values in 'signature behaviours'.

The mental health campaign spokesperson said the report was 'unbelievable'.

They added: “This isn’t something they’ve just discovered. It’s an issue with top down bullying management.

"They have an issue with racial discrimination with BAME staff treated really badly and there’s huge gender inequality in terms of management and pay."

The NSFT spokeswoman said the trust had 'worked hard' with staff to address 'longstanding cultural issues'.

She said: "Part of this report recognises the fundamental point that we need to better support people who are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. So far, we have launched the Expect Respect campaign in January, taken part in a reverse mentoring programme and have an active BME group."