MPs have voiced concerns over delays to the publication of a full report into claims Dudley hospital chiefs presided over a culture of intimidation and bullying.

A review into the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust was launched after an anonymous letter from 42 staff members was sent to the Trust's chairman last July accusing the leadership team of bullying behaviour to the detriment of ‘staff morale, patient care and the safety agenda’.

A long-awaited summary report of the review, carried out by Capsticks Solicitors, was finally published last Friday (March 8) and said there was no evidence of a ‘systemic culture of bullying and intimidation by the Trust leadership’ although it did acknowledge there had been instances of behaviour by members of the leadership team that were 'perceived' by others as bullying and harassment.

It said instances, however, were not supported by documentary evidence - although the ‘direct’ management style of the leadership team was dubbed ‘aggressive’ by some interviewees.

The effectiveness of the Trust whistleblowing service, the Freedom to Speak Up process, was also questioned, with the report stating staff felt it was a 'superficial' approach which they did not have trust or confidence in.

The review also noted leadership did not always show 'role model behaviour' to other staff members, citing the example of leadership figures parking in disabled bays on the hospital car park when they were not always entitled to.

Dudley Group chief executive Diane Wake has welcomed the report - although the full review is still awaited - and she stressed the Dudley Group's commitment to working with staff to implement its recommendations.

Stourbridge MP Margot James (pictured below), however, said she was "very concerned by the continuous delays to the full publication of this report". 

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She said: "We are now more than four months on and the Trust advised us last week that it would be “four to six weeks” before a date for publication is likely to emerge. Publication is being held up by legal wrangles between the Trust’s lawyers and Capsticks, the firm carrying out the review.

"The summary published last week noted the complaints of bullying and intimidation of staff by the leadership team from a number of those interviewed, and a drive from that same team to close down such incidents.

"The Trust’s own staff survey of 2018 show the decline in confidence among the 1,600 employees who participated in the survey. Only 56 per cent of staff would want their friends and family to be treated at the hospital compared with 74 per cent the year before.

"The Trust’s lawyers should disclose the full reasons why the full report has been so delayed and why there is still no date set for publication.

"In the absence of such information I can only conclude that it is because individuals criticised in the report are using the law to get content redacted."

Dudley Group's chairman Jenni Ord, who is soon to step down, described the review as "a full and independent enquiry" and said: "The full report is still being finalised by Capsticks to ensure the rights of all individuals who have contributed, not the four named individuals, are complied with and properly protected as required by law.

"Once that process has been completed Capsticks will provide their independent report to the Trust. We will set a date for publication once the report has been received.

"MP Margot James was in a face-to-face briefing led by our interim chief nurse Mary Sexton on the day the report was published and was specifically provided with this information."

Trust chief exec Diane Wake (pictured below) said of the report: "Our staff deserve to work in a working environment where they are not subject to bullying or harassment. 

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"If they are subject to that, it is incumbent upon us to make sure that there’s the right processes in place to be made aware of that and take appropriate action if that is happening.

"Our staff are our most important asset in the Trust to deliver safe care to the patients of Dudley. It’s important to me that they work in a culture which is safe and allows them to raise concerns."

She acknowledged the lack of trust in the whistleblowing service was a 'concern' and added that the Trust was undergoing a mediation process to help the strained relationship between the leadership and clinicians.

She also said it was 'not acceptable' for staff to park in disabled parking spaces without the correct permissions and confirmed this was no longer happening.

The union, which represents some of the staff involved, has branded the report a 'whitewash' and Rob Quick, National Officer of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association, said: "It is highly unusual to see 42 doctors put their heads above the parapet and collectively make such a serious complaint.

“The Trust have kept this so-called independent report under wraps for months and now we see why.

“Hospital doctors at the Trust are understandably incensed by this attempt to whitewash and sanitise the issue.

“We are concerned that staff morale, which is already low, will be dealt a further blow by this report’s total denial of the depth of the problem.

“This cannot be allowed to be the last word on the issue. We will now be pressing for a full independent inquiry to look at the facts in an unbiased way.”

Dudley North MP Ian Austin (pictured below) said of the situation: “I’m really worried about what is happening at Russells Hall and want the government to get a grip.

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“Staff are working flat out, and hospitals everywhere are under huge pressure, with a nationwide recruitment crisis and patients waiting longer and longer for treatment, but the problems at Russells Hall clearly go much deeper than that.

“Consultants have contacted me with similar complaints and I want to know that these issues are being addressed properly.”