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Accusation of a 'toxic' environment on Bodmin Hospital ward

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: March 24, 2014

Comments (3)

A STAFF member at Bodmin Hospital's mental health unit has spoken out against what he calls a "toxic" environment at a hospital ward.

And a retired registered mental health nurse has also spoken of "a culture of fear" within Bodmin Hospital.

They were both responding to the sacking of three nurses on Harvest ward for gross misconduct after an alleged assault on a patient.

An employment tribunal judge ruled that Sharon Little, Tim Spear and Martin Smith were unfairly dismissed, and criticised the Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust for believing the evidence of a dangerous and disruptive psychiatric patient instead of the testimony of the three experienced nurses.

Despite the ruling, the trust's nurse executive Sharon Linter still insisted dismissing them was fair and appropriate.

A staff member, who did not wish to be named, said some of his colleagues had been suspended for more than two years, and the waste of money and resources was impacting on patient care.

"I believe that most fair-minded people would be horrified if they were made aware of half of what goes on at the hospital," he said.

"I am so proud of the three members of staff on Harvest ward for enduring the last two years. I know it was a horrendous ordeal for them."

Registered nurse Ken Julian, who worked in the psychiatric intensive care unit for 14 years, said: "What concerns me most is that even in the face of the judge's words and the tribunal ruling, the trust's nurse executive stood by the sackings. I retired in May 2012 having experienced a deterioration in working relationships between clinical staff, and management."

Mr Julian said he was involved in investigative processes, although no disciplinary action was taken against him, but was always left with the impression that there was no transparency to the processes.

"Colleagues might suddenly be moved to another ward or even suspended and you were left in the dark as to the outcome of an investigation. A culture of demoralisation and even fear was developing," he said.

"The words of the nurse executive in response to the ruling are enough to make me think that I have no reason to revise my opinions. An opportunity to throw up hands in acknowledgement, apologise and attempt some small compensation has been missed. Instead, the community is left with the justifiable impression that the organisation that is their specialist mental health care provider does not care."

In response to the comments, a spokesperson for the trust said: "Two years ago, patient, staff and visitor feedback led us to review local practice on Harvest ward, against other units nationally and best practice care.

"Our findings led us to make a number of changes to improve patient care and safety.

"During a recent visit inspectors from the Care Quality Commission commented on the changes that had been made – saying the unit feels much 'safer and calmer'.

"The comments made by the retired member of staff do not reflect the most recent staff survey, where the trust has the lowest levels of bullying in the country."

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  • havergal  |  March 24 2014, 10:41PM

    yet another interesting response from CFT - they introduce the word bullying when this is not the complaint - the complaint is that they see fit to argue with a legal ruling - i hope the community will express their feelings and beliefs about this

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  • JeremyBadger  |  March 24 2014, 7:30PM

    I am beginning to think that Senior Managers at this unit should be investigated as it is quite clear that they do not have the confidence of the staff nor, I understand, the patients. Unfortunately the Care Quality Commission give notice of their visits well beforehand, perhaps it would be better if they visited without notice.

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  • annie0103  |  March 24 2014, 10:44AM

    Anyone who works in the NHS will know that every time something goes wrong there will always be a scapegoat (unfortunate nursing staff) and the NHS will always come out whiter than white. Every time.

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