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"I'm not a bully", says Colchester hospitals boss
6:00am Monday 2nd December 2013 in News
THE man in charge of Colchester’s hospitals has insisted he is not a bully.
A Care Quality Commission investigation found junior staff had been forced to change cancer patients’ records to hit targets.
Union leaders, including Royal College of Nursing director Karen Webb, this week claimed workers in other hospital departments were also harassed and that the leadership presided over a bullying culture.
But Dr Gordon Coutts, chief executive at Colchester Hospitals University Foundation Trust, which oversees Colchester General Hospital and Essex County Hospital, sauid he believed the “vast majority” of staff were opposed to such practices.
He insisted he and his leadership largely set the right tone for the rest of the hospital trust to follow.
Asked for his response to Mrs Webb’s claims, he said: “There has been lots of publicity and it’s all around the Care Quality Comission report, which is a very tough report in terms of the delays.
“It shows there have been inappropriate changes and a culture which is completely contrary to the culture which the majority of the staff here aspire to.”
Asked if he met those standards, Dr Coutts replied: “I think I do. Feedback from staff from all walks of the hospitals have been very encouraging.
I do my very best to live up to those values – to be open, to be available and to be visible around the trust. The feedback I get tends to be I do, but clearly this investigation will need to look at that.”
Enquiries have been launched by the trust, Essex Police, NHS England and regulatos Monitor, which has placed the trust in special measures.
Dr Coutts said: “We have to create a culture where people can speak up. It takes a lot of courage.
“We need to be better at listening to concerns and encouraging people to raise them.
“The chairman, Sally Irvine, has already initiated a review into these sorts of claims in conjunction with Monitor. That will get to the bottom of these individual cases.
“But overall we employ over 4,000 people and the vast majority of our staff get our culture. If there are [any more] areas we need to find out where they are and we need to tackle them head on.”
The Gazette revealed yesterday that since the cancer scandal broke the hospital had started missing targets, including treating 95 per cent of accident and emergency patients within four hours.
Dr Coutts said there had been a similar blip following the publication of the Keogh Review into high death rates at the hospital in February.
He believes staff are extra-cautious about sending patients home, leading to missed targets.
He said: “These reports trouble staff. Because patient care is their number one priority, it’s not inconceivable they become a little bit more cautious and think twice before sending a patient home.
“It doesn’t take much hestitation for it to cause people to stay longer in the hospital, which then has an impact on the A&E standard.
“We’ve also seen the number of patients staying longer than two weeks has also gone up. That has caused our performance to dip.”
Dr Coutts said two contingency wards had been opened, partly to tackle a rise in winter A&E admissions.
He said: “This is disappointing but we have got plans in place, we’ve got good staff here so I’m sure we’ll get back on track.”
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