Healthcare staff ‘bullied when they complained about conditions on Covid ward’ – Unison

Staff caring for dying Covid-19 patients at a major UK teaching hospital were subject to a campaign of bullying and abuse if they dared complain about working conditions, a union has said.

Health care workers at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham were shouted at and barred from taking sick leave by managers, Unison claimed.

Staff described being openly shouted at on the ward and denied vital personal protective equipment which was kept in a locked office, the union said.

Others were allegedly told their life would be made “a living hell” if they spoke out, and some are now understood to be off sick due to stress.

Non-specialist staff were trying to act as palliative carers in unprecedented conditions with no support from the wider Nottingham University Hospitals Trust, it is claimed.

Managers created a “sickness board” in the break room, the union said, listing everyone’s individual symptoms to shame staff into coming in to work even if they were feeling unwell.

Unison is now raising a collective grievance on behalf of more than 20 employees at the trust who were reassigned to look after coronavirus patients at the Queen’s Medical Centre.

The centre is the UK’s second-largest teaching hospital.

One member of staff said: “We were caring for people as they died, using our own phones to Facetime their families, bagging their bodies and then dealing with their relatives.

“It was incredibly stressful.”

The individual said the hospital’s specialist palliative care team usually deals with about 200 deaths each year, while they had to handle 185 deaths in the space of four months.

“People doing that job normally receive high levels of training and support because of the stress. We had none of that,” they said.

Another member of staff said any complaint just made you the target of bullying by managers.

“There was a sickness board with everyone’s individual illnesses on display in the break room to intimidate you into coming in, however ill you were,” they said.

“If you went sick, you were taken into a meeting and your sickness record was discussed, going back up to 16 years.”

Unison’s East Midlands regional officer Dave Ratchford said: “We’re talking about a very high-performing team who fell foul of a culture that permits bullying and fails to address it.

He added: “Staff were told their lives would be made hell for complaining.

“No-one should be bullied at work and least of all those who put their families on hold and their lives on the line for the rest of us.

“There’s a catalogue of intolerable behaviour being reported by staff and the trust must resolve this speedily.”

Dr Neil Pease, people director at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust, told the BBC he was “disappointed” to hear about the claims from staff.

He said: “We greatly value our staff for the incredible dedication and resilience they have shown during the pandemic.

“They have done amazing things in the face of truly unprecedented challenges, so to hear of these grievances is very troubling indeed.

“Bullying and harassment are not tolerated in our organisation.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Geoff Kirby / PA Wire.