We Are EEAST Briefing - 11th December 2020


WeAreEEAST Briefing, Friday 11th December - Nicola Scrivings, Trust Chair and Dr Tom Davis, Acting CEO

Welcome, it’s very good to come together on a Friday afternoon. The topic that I want to talk about today and take questions on is around the next steps in our understanding of the culture of the organisation and to explain a little more around the actions and activities that we have been doing as a result, but also what we have been doing since September. Because that was really the start of our journey of understanding this issue in a bit more depth and to respond more specifically.

You will recall that the CQC published a report back in September which identified concerns that you had raised about your experiences of sexual harassment, bullying, and other inappropriate behaviours throughout the Trust. Now, at the time, for me that was a very tough report to read and it was absolutely impossible to ignore from myself, from board members and the leadership team. At that time, right back in September, we gave an absolute commitment to do a staff survey which would be anonymous, and you stepped forward. Over 2000 of you have shared your experiences with us, and you have taken your own time and you have taken courage to do that, so I really thank you. Because it is only through hearing directly from you that we can be certain that we understand what the environment is and what issues we need to tackle, and how we need to think about solving this problem once and for all.

Now the findings have shown us at every level people have experienced or witnessed unacceptable behaviour in the Trust, and this is on multiple levels. It may be racism, it may be sexism, or it may even concern other colleagues who are disabled in some way. And more, within the survey it shows us that these unacceptable behaviour takes place at every single level of the organisation, be that managers to managers, or from staff or from patients. This is really important, because it reflects on the fact that culture is an issue for all of us, it’s not some esoteric organisational construct, culture is how we behave every day, every hour, within our organisation.

So, what’s been really important to me and to the board is that we didn’t actually wait for the survey, because these things have been talked about in the past. But we have focused on the last few weeks, in terms of immediate action, so Dr Tom Davis will tell us a little more about the activities that have been taking place. But one of the main things that we have been asking of people is to speak out and to speak up about unacceptable behaviour in the workplace, and we’ve done this through the support of investing in our Freedom to Speak Up channels, a lady called Janice Scott who has been there and supported to make sure that we can hear these concerns, learn from them, and act on the concerns.

But what I wanted to say personally before I handed over to Dr Davis is that culture is a really interesting thing, because culture from my perspective is what we do when we are not being observed. And it’s how we behave and what values do we all live by when we’re not in oversight of ‘Big Brother’ if you like. It’s something for all of us, it’s a responsibility for all of us to really grip and to think about in terms of how our own behaviours fit within the context of the leadership values and behaviours we expect throughout the Trust. So, the Trust will take actions, because there are policies and processes and approaches that we need to improve upon, that is very clear. But it’s very clear also that the culture is something for all of us, and for us all to take responsibility, and I just wanted to say that I take that responsibility very seriously for my own behaviours. And I will also hold the Trust to account in terms of changing it’s approaches and it’s policies.

So, on that, I will pass over to Dr Davis who is going to talk a little bit around specific actions on the staff survey that we have just received.

Thank you Chair, and good afternoon everyone and thank you again for joining me again on one of these Q and A sessions. My name is Tom Davis, I am the Acting Chief Executive, and we have been talking over the last couple of week’s in these sessions around the progress of the survey and it’s great that I can now start to address the themes and trends of the survey and the actions that we are taking.

I think firstly, some thank you’s. Thank you to everyone that has responded to this survey. Clearly we want to make sure that people’s voices are heard without any consequence to that. So, our ongoing commitment to everyone that has completed the survey that issues will be addressed, but they won’t be publicised. Secondly, a big thanks to all of the people that have worked really hard to be there to listen and hear what staff are saying. So, my exec director colleagues who have continued to do these sessions on a weekly basis. To the Culture Director and his team who are out and about and listening to staff and colleagues. To Janice who, as Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, has seen a significant increase of people speaking up to her and whilst that’s fantastic, we are well aware that Janice has a certain capacity, and we’re looking continually to support that to ensure that she is supporting in supporting as our staff,

I think the other aspect of the survey that I wanted to focus on before I talk about the actions that we have already done and the actions that we will continue to do, is that the survey has shown that there is unacceptable behaviour. Any amount of unacceptable behaviour is not to be tolerated, and that’s the position we are taking as a board. As the Chair has said, this survey shows that these behaviours are multi-factorial, their range within the definition of bullying, sexual harassment, racial harassment, bullying and harassment because of sexual orientation and bullying and harassment because of disability. But that say’s to me that there are also what other people have termed low level behaviours, that will be going on as well.

I think the other thing that has been really clear from the survey results is that these behaviours are not unique to one group of the organisation against another. There is evidence through the survey that this is managers to staff, staff to managers, peers to peer, whether that be managers or staff, and unfortunately even patients to staff and staff to patients. So there’s clear evidence through the survey that the responsibility to change the culture of this organisation, to make it a safe place for us all to come to work is absolutely everyone’s responsibility. Whether or not we believe we are perpetrating these behaviours, and many of us won’t be, it’s a minority that will be, whether or not we believe we are inadvertently walking passed these behaviours, or whether or not we are subject to these behaviours and have yet to feel strong enough to speak out, we all have a responsibility to look at our day to day activities, look at how we interact with each other, and to start to challenge ourselves around are we behaving as we’d expect to have others behave towards us, are we treating each other with the values of the organisation, and of human society.

Just to go on now to actions before we start taking questions, and thank you, we’ve already had a question and feel free to post your question in the live question box, or if you prefer then to use the OC East email and we can respond through that mechanism.

I think it’s really important, as we’ve said all along, that we didn’t wait for these survey results to start taking action. The survey results will help us refine and shape the actions, and create new actions, and to assure those that responded that every single comment has been read. There were 76,000 plus data points that the team have gone through, and every single written comment has been read by a very small team. Where information was provided that meant we could take action, we have done, and where information has been provided where further investigation is needed or further focus from the culture team of the freedom to speak up guardians activity, we have commenced that as well. 

So, work that we are doing includes work centrally to improve policies and processes, but more importantly work on the ground level, work at local level. We have now 18 sites where the specialist culture team support team is working, working with managers and staff in those areas. We have focused our Freedom to Speak Up Guardian and her activities on areas that have been highlighted through the survey that staff have felt challenged in speaking up, and these are ongoing activities.

We have improved our wellbeing support and provision and will continue to do so with the support of the special measures team, and we brought in further additional resource to help both current investigations with independent investigators being appointed from both the Culture Director and his organisation and NHSE and I both regionally and nationally. They’re there to both expediate and improve the way we are managing some of our HR processes, but they are also now being involved in a Trust wide review of all cases that are either still outstanding or have recently closed that have involved elements of sexual harassment.

You will have seen last week that our new management development programme has been introduced and we’re putting in further additional coaching and support for managers across the organisation at every level. But most importantly, as I’ve said, the main action is what we can all do when we come to work and interact with each other. We are encouraging people to speak up if it is happening to you, to speak out if you are seeing it happen to others around you, and to stop it if you are perpetrating these activities that are having a negative impact on people.

I think I just want to finally touch on the comment I made about low level behaviours or indirect behaviours and it is relevant to the question that I will turn to in a second. Many people that I have spoken to have talked about low level behaviours, about banter, and about indirect consequences that people perceive when they speak up or otherwise. These are going to be the majority of behaviours that are creating our culture, and these are happening at every level, every geography of the organisation on a day-to-day basis. How we interact with each other, how we treat each other is absolutely fundamental to us building a more positive culture as we move forward.

So, I’m encouraging us all, and myself included, to think about our every interaction, to think about how our narrative or our behaviours are landing on our colleagues around us. And considering it from their perspective, because what might be tolerated by me as an individual receiving that action or behaviour may not be tolerated by the person standing next to me, and that’s really important. So, please do think about what we can all add to improving our culture, and together we will move this forward, I’m sure of it.

Published 14th December 2020