NHS staff working in mental health services in Tayside are to be given “safe spaces” in which they can detail bad management practices.
Allan Drummond, Unison’s staff representative in the service, said disclosures were already being made by frustrated frontline workers in the wake of the independent inquiry’s final report last week.
A survey of mental health staff conducted as part of the inquiry, chaired by former prisons boss Dr David Strang, found that 29% of respondents had either experienced or witnessed bullying in their work environment.
Mr Drummond told the Perth and Kinross integrated joint board (IJB) that staff should be able to freely speak their mind to prevent bad practice from continuing in future.
The “safe space” will be facilitated by new nursing director Claire Pearce and employee director Jenny Alexander.
“When we went round the community mental health teams we had staff handing us reports (on bad practice) and these were well-attended,” he said.
“The fact is, we’re going to have…a safe space for staff to come and talk to them (Claire and Jenny), in isolation and be a bit more open, as some concerns have been marginalised in the service.”
The 130-page report, described by IJB chair Eric Drysdale as “challenging and difficult”, detailed how a “culture of fear and blame” existed within Tayside mental health services that prevented junior staff from speaking out.
One submission to the independent inquiry noted: “Everyone in the system thinks the problems are someone else’s fault…(senior staff are) micromanaging and highly controlling. Staff feeling belittled and dismissed.”
NHS Tayside chief executive Grant Archibald, whose attendance at the meeting was excused, has apologised for what he called the “past mistakes” of the health service.
He will present a draft action plan, currently being worked on, to the Tayside board on February 27.
Dr Strang’s report also noted how there had been a breakdown of trust and respect between clinicians and patients and their families – and a lack of clarity over how mental health services in Tayside are operated.
The lack of clarity was apparent at the IJB meeting when Sandy Watts, third sector representative to the board, decried a lack of communication over the Tayside Mental Health Alliance, of which she is a member.
Ms Watts told the meeting: “I haven’t had any information about the Mental Health Alliance meetings. We can’t even find out the dates.”
The IJB clerk said she was not a member of the TMHA – itself created with the aim of reducing red tape and confusion between the three regional IJBs and NHS Tayside – only to be corrected by Highland councillor Xander McDade.