Tensions high at mental health trust meeting while report shows abuse against BME staff is increasing

Gary Page, chairman of the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Gary Page, chairman of the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR - Credit: Lucy Taylor

The percentage of black and minority ethnic (BME) staff working for the region’s mental heath trust that are experiencing abuse from patients and their families is increasing.

During April 2016 to 2017, 45% of BME staff across Norfolk and Suffolk experienced harassment, bullying or abuse, in comparison to 35% of white staff members.

This has increased by 5% during the current year, while harassment of white staff decreased by nearly 1%.

The figures, from the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), are above the benchmark for all trusts across the country.

During 2016, under 30% of BME staff across all trusts experienced abuse.

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The report was presented to the NSFT board of directors meeting yesterday.

Chairman Gary Page said: “It is really disturbing and based on previous years is getting worse.”

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In the report it said: “The most common type of abuse is racial from patients to staff with secure services staff experiencing this far more frequently than other teams.”

Recommendations include a focus on the communication of the respect campaign and to “promote and raise awareness” of the process of reporting abuse.

In the report it also stated “working arrangements with the police to support BME staff who have been abused” will be revisited.

There has been a close to 2% increase over the last year in BME staff who have said they personally experienced discrimination at work from a manager, team leader of other member of staff.

Actions to tackle the issue include a 12-month communications campaign, which is ongoing into 2018, and the re-launch of bullying and harassment mandatory training.

The report suggests there is a “disparity” between the levels of staff to staff discrimination reported by BME staff.

This may be due to BME staff not feeling “confident that such reports will be acted upon” or because they are not aware of the incident reporting systems.

Other actions underway to address the issue include a review of how the bullying, harassment and discrimination policy is applied.

It was the first meeting held by the NSFT board of directors following the services’ inadequate Care Quality Commission (CQC) rating.

When the meeting was opened to the public for questions one former staff member made her views known to board members.

She said she felt the foundation was “rotten”.

She recognised the hard work of the board and governors in the weeks after the CQC report, which was published on October 13.

However she felt “something radical needs to happen to turn it around”.

She added: “I have friends and connections in the trust and people say it is getting worse and say I am lucky to have gotten out.”

A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services also spoke out against the trust - which was put into special measures for the second time.

He said warnings from a range of people had been ignored.

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