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The Care Quality Commission (CQC) carried out an inspection at South-East Coast Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust (Secamb) in February 2022, following a high number of anonymous concerns raised regarding the organisation’s culture and leadership.
Bullying and harassment at Secamb has become “normalised”, a watchdog says, with complaints also including inappropriate sexualised behaviour.
Whistleblowers who raised their concerns with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) were praised for being ‘brave enough to come forward’.
Leadership at Secamb was also rated as “inadequate” by the CQC inspectors, with the trust saying it was “committed to making improvements”.
Amanda Williams, the CQC’s Director of Integrated Care, said that, “while staff were doing their very best to provide safe care to patients, leaders often appeared out of touch with what was happening on the frontline”, according to the BBC.
She added: “Some negative aspects of the organisational culture, including bullying and harassment and inappropriate sexualised behaviour, were not addressed and became normalised behaviours.
“There was a clear disconnect between leaders and staff, leading to a poor and unsupportive culture.”
The CQC is reported to be recommending that the NHS provides a recovery support programme for the trust – the highest level of support that is offered.
A spokesman for Secamb said the concerns surrounding culture and leadership “are being taken extremely seriously” – they are reportedly appointing a new interim chief executive.
Inspectors also looked at the emergency operations centre and the NHS 111 service provided by the trust.
They rated the NHS 111 service as “good” but the emergency operations centre was moved down from a “good” to a “requires improvement” rating.
According to the BBC, The CQC has suspended the trust’s overall rating until it has completed further checks.