HCSA President: Ockenden report shows toxic NHS culture must change

HCSA's president has warned that toxic work culture, poor NHS leadership, and understaffing must be confronted if we are to avoid more tragedies, after the release of the Ockenden report into maternity services at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust.

The report found leadership failings, a climate of fear and bullying and systemic staff shortages among the driving factors linked to over 200 avoidable deaths and inestimable pain for the families involved.

However, HCSA President Dr Claudia Paoloni warned that, nine years on from the Francis inquiry into deaths at Mid-Staffs, the NHS appears doomed to see a future similar scandal unless it commits to radical change.

She said: “Our hearts go out to all the families whose lives were impacted by the litany of failings identified by the Ockenden report. Sadly these failings remain all too common in our NHS despite mood music from the top in the wake of the Francis report nine years ago into failings at Mid-Staffs.

“Too many of our members report having to work in a toxic culture of fear where poor managers are rewarded and those who speak up are threatened with disciplinaries or victimised. For those who have blown the whistle on poor practice and leadership the decision has all too often been career-ending. Leaders need to be accountable for the culture they oversee, and they must be compelled to heed the voice of staff as a fundamental part in assessing whether that culture is fit for purpose.

“Several of the key findings also echo our concerns that short staffing, not just in maternity services which are badly affected, is leading to a lack of training, overreliance on locums, creating a negative working culture and ultimately risking patient care.

“The NHS must now commit to turn the current culture around. We owe it to the many families who have faced personal tragedies due to the failings at Shrewsbury and Telford.”