Feature Image: Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI)
Workers at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Trust (UHBW), which runs the BRI, Bristol Children’s Hospital and Weston General, told watchdogs from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) that line managers had issued the demeaning instruction to go by “Western names” while on duty.
The findings, which the CQC says are “not acceptable”, have forced trust chief executive Robert Woolley to insist publicly that there was “no management instruction”.
Speaking at a UHBW board meeting, he criticised the alleged behaviour as “micro-aggression” that left staff feeling “judged and unwelcome”.
Employees also sent the CQC photos of “buckets and towels gathering water” in a St Michael’s Hospital corridor and “water coming in through the roof” of main operating theatres at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, issues Mr Woolley said were well known and were being addressed.
The unannounced inspection of core services focusing on medical care in Bristol and Weston and outpatients in Weston, followed by a three-day visit to determine how well-led the organisation is, took place in June.
In a letter to Mr Woolley outlining its initial findings, the CQC said: “We were concerned to hear from staff that they have been told by line managers to adopt a ‘Western work name’ as the pronouncing of their name was too difficult.
“This is not acceptable. Individuals can only truly thrive in a work environment where they feel safe as themselves and belong, rather than having to ‘fit in’.”
Mr Woolley said it was “really quite concerning” that BAME staff were told to use Western names instead of their own.
He told the virtual meeting on Thursday, July 29: “Just to make absolutely clear, there is no management instruction around that – those are isolated reports the CQC were informed about by staff themselves.
“We’ve been back to ask the CQC if they can give us more information about where that is happening.
“For confidentiality reasons they are unable to do so. But we have been looking in detail at this.
“I’ve made statements in my staff briefings that whatever the reasons are – people may think it’s funny, but it’s not funny – that kind of behaviour constitutes what we call micro-aggression, and cumulatively that just leaves staff feeling judged and unwelcome.
“We are putting additional training together. Our equality, diversion and inclusion manager is looking to launch that training and awareness in August, and we will send that trust-wide.
“It will cover all those sorts of micro-aggressive behaviours as well as the inability to respect people’s given names.”
The letter from CQC head of hospitals inspection Amanda Williams said staff had also raised concerns about the “safety of some of the estate”, including leaking roofs in gynaecology and office areas of St Michael’s.
Mr Woolley told the board: “On the point of environmental issues raised to the CQC, particularly the water penetration in BRI theatres and St Michael’s, of course we are aware of those and are on top of those.
“We know we have deteriorating estate and backlog issues in certain areas, and of course that is part of the capital plan that the board is aware of to remedy those issues sustainably.”
The meeting was told the approved annual capital plan was £78.5million of investment in “trust infrastructure, digital services, medical equipment and strategic capital schemes”.
A report to members said the CQC also highlighted examples of a “positive safety culture”, including debriefs, ward rounds and the use of early warning scores at the BRI.
“In Weston outpatient services they found appropriate processes and training in place and found our staff to be passionate and enthusiastic,” it said.
“They also commented on positive feedback from staff about direct ward and nursing leadership across both the BRI and Weston medical care wards and departments, and they saw many examples of caring treatment and interactions with our patients.
“However, the CQC also requested urgent regulatory assurance in relation to the Weston site regarding staffing, patient risk assessment and use of escalation areas.
“The trust took immediate action and provided the CQC with requested assurances.”
It said this included relieving pressure at Weston General Hospital so patients could be moved out of escalation areas, which have additional temporary beds for limited periods. The report said: “The trust has been providing CQC with weekly assurance reports – a pattern which will continue for the foreseeable future.”
A draft inspection report is imminent and will be followed by a broader action plan from the trust in response to the concerns, before the full report is published. Board interim chairwoman Jayne Mee said: “It’s really important we pick up on all those areas that have been brought to our attention and do that quickly prior to receiving the complete report.”