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Bullying and patient safety concerns at the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.

We would like to reassure our community, patients and visitors that any allegations that our staff have been bullied are taken extremely seriously and are thoroughly and urgently investigated, which is one of the reasons why we are among the top five NHS trusts in the country for having engaged, happy, and empowered staff.

Staff have shared concerns with the media about our culture and the way in which the Trust conducted a recent serious incident investigation. Understanding the worry this may cause colleagues and patients, we wanted to acknowledge this. 

What has happened?

We opened a serious incident investigation into the care of a patient who, very sadly, died while in our care. This incident had been declared, investigated, and the family had been informed (called Duty of Candour, where we tell patients and families when something has gone wrong, say sorry, and involve them in our investigation), when a serious information breach took place involving confidential patient information being accessed and shared inappropriately.

This caused distress to the patient’s family, for which we have apologised, and we opened a second serious incident investigation around this data breach. We asked staff who were involved in the investigation to provide handwriting and fingerprint examples in order to immediately rule themselves out of the investigation. Staff were asked to provide these, and were not threatened with disciplinary action if they chose not to do so.

However, we know that for some colleagues involved that it did not necessarily feel that way and that this was a very difficult and stressful situation for them, for which we are sorry. This was an exceptional case in terms of investigation and doesn’t form our standard practice, but knowing the impact it has had on staff involved we will continue to reflect as an organisation on our approach. We have apologised to our staff. We have no intention of pursuing fingerprint requests further. 

We shared our serious incident investigation process with the Care Quality Commission (CQC), and NHS Improvement.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our patient advice and liaison service (PALS); telephone 01284 712555, or email