Just 49% staff at maternity scandal trust feel safe to speak out

Less than half of staff at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust said they feel safe to speak up about concerns, as a damning report warned serious problems persist in maternity care.

Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust was one of the worst performing trusts on the latest national survey of staff for the NHS.

The news comes as Donna Ockenden, who chaired the review into maternity failures at SATH, said her “biggest concern” was that staff were being told not to speak out to her review.

The NHS staff survey, published on Wednesday, showed just 49 per cent of staff at the trust reported they would feel safe to speak up about concerns in 2021. This is down from 53 per cent in 2020.

Meanwhile, just 34 per cent of staff said they feel their concerns would be addressed if there were to speak up.

Across key questions about rising care concerns, the trust is one of the worst three preforming hospital trusts in the country.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust and Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust both performed slightly worse than Shrewsbury and Telford on these measures.

The staff survey findings came as the final report into the largest maternity scandal in the NHS found almost 300 babies died or were harmed as a result of poor care at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust over 40 years.

According to the Ockenden maternity review, published on Wednesday, just 109 staff came forward to speak to reviews and 11 withdrew as the report was being finalized.

speaking to The Independent Ms Ockenden said her biggest concern was “that ordinary staff on the ground are telling me they were advised not to cooperate with the Ockenden review”

She said the issue had been raised with NHS England and the Department for Health and Social Care and twice in recent months with the trust’s chief executive Louise Barnett.

According to Ms Ockenden: “The vast majority of those withdrew because they said they were frightened that what they’d said could be linked back to them. Other colleagues came forward and said that the reason why staff hadn’t come forward was number one they’d been advised not to number two, they were fearful of reprisals and number three, they were fearful of their jobs.”

The NHS staff survey covers a range of questions and 444,326, around 46 per cent, of the SATH’s staff answered the survey. 27 per cent of those who answered the survey were nurses or midwives.

Although there was an increase in staff reporting they would feel safe raising concerns about unsafe clinical practice from 62 per cent in 2020 to 67 per cent in 2021, it was still among the worst performing trusts on this question.

Just 19 per cent of staff said they felt there was enough staff to be able to perform their job properly.

The trust also had one of the lowest percentages of staff recommending it as a place to work with just 41 per cent saying they agreed or strongly agreed with the statement.

The news comes as wider concerns raised on Thursday about staff’s ability across the NHS to raise concerns, as nationally 62 per cent of staff said they feel able to speak up in the NHS staff survey.

On Thursday a report National Guardian’s Office, which represents “Freedom to Speak Up Guardians” in the NHS said there were “warning signs” that more need to be done to improve the NHS’ speaking up culture.

According to a survey of 800 “freedom to Speak up guardians” who are employed by NHS organizations as a whistleblowing function, 62 per cent said there was a positive culture in their organization with respect to speaking up. However, this has dropped by five percentage points in the last year.

There was also a drop on nine per cent points in the proportion of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians who said their senior leaders support workers to speak up.

Dr Jayne Chidgey-Clark, national guardian for the NHS, said the result gave her “cause for concern”

She added: “Senior leaders should discuss the findings of this survey with their Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, and their workers, and look at their plans to continue to improve the speak up culture in their organisations.”

Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust was approached for comment.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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