CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Hospital could withhold treatment over ‘bullying’

A third of Whittington staff have reported ‘harassment, bullying or abuse from patients, relatives or the public’

20 April, 2017 — By Tom Foot

The Whittington Hospital in Highgate

WHITTINGTON chiefs are considering with­holding treatment from patients who harass or bully staff following a spike in work-related stress.

The Highgate NHS Trust says it may “with­hold treatment in approp­riate circum­stances” as one of a series of measures.

A report presented to its board this week said 42 per cent of Whittington staff had “suffered work-related stress” during the past year and a third reported “harassment, bullying or abuse from patients, relatives or the public”. The figures have concerned the Whitting­ton board sufficiently for them to take action.

Shirley Franklin, chair­woman of the Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition, said: “We know our staff are fabulously caring. It’s appalling that they are suffering this stress, and abuse, which are the result of cuts.”

She added that there is a “massive shortage of nursing staff probably caused by the dreadful pay and refusal to implement more than a 1 per cent pay increase”.

Candy Udwin, chairwoman of Camden Keep Our NHS Public

Candy Udwin, chairwoman of Camden Keep Our NHS Public, said: “It is not surprising staff are reporting higher levels of stress. NHS staff are being expected to plug the gaps of under-funding and short-staffing. They face daily crises while trying to maintain safe levels of care to their patients. The Tories have a lot to answer for.”

The Whittington report said there was a plan to “tackle specific identified bullying hotspots” in the hospital by introducing a football referee-style red and yellow card warning system for patients, their relatives and friends.

The hospital would also reintroduce “employee of the month” awards to boost morale and launch a review of its European Working Time Directive (EWTD) –EU regulations designed to prevent employers requiring their workforce to work excessively long hours.

It is the sixth year that the Whittington has carried out an annual staff survey, run by the not-for-profit Picker Institute, which poses questions to a random sample of 1,227 staff at the Highgate hospital.

Strikingly, 76 per cent of survey responders were women. The report said the Trust had scored well in other areas, including 93 per cent agreeing that their roles “made a difference to patients’ lives”. A spokeswoman added: “Demand for NHS services is growing and it is likely that this is a factor in staff working extra hours.

“We know that staff shortages can also cause staff to feel stressed at work. We have a zero-tolerance approach to any physical violence and actively encourage all staff to report any incid­ents as swiftly as possible so that we can make sure they get the support they need. As part of this approach we are also considering in­troducing some add­ition­al measures to help our staff de-escalate potentially violent situations through a yellow and red card system.”

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