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Board to get anti-racism training as CQC orders cultural improvements

Published on: 27 Oct 2022

Regulators have told the agency that supplies blood to the NHS to develop a more inclusive culture, after hearing multiple reports of ethnic minority staff being ‘disrespected’ and discriminated against.

“Many staff” at NHS Blood and Transplant also expressed fear of reprisal for raising issues and concerns, the Care Quality Commission said.

The CQC carried out a “well-led” inspection of the agency over the summer, after receiving concerns about its culture and the behaviour of some senior leaders.

Chief executive Betsy Bassis resigned after the inspection, although the CQC report does not refer to any specific allegations made against her.

NHSBT has acknowledged it needs to improve its culture, particularly around diversity and inclusion issues. An internal memo sent to staff last week, seen by HSJ, said executives and board members would receive one-to-one training in “inclusive leadership and understanding racism”.

Last week, the results of an internal survey suggested the majority of staff who responded feel NHSBT has a “very or extremely serious” problem with racism.

The CQC report, published today, included many examples of positive operational work, as well as “pockets of compassionate, inclusive leadership”.

But it added: “Staff at various levels raised concerns about the culture in relation to diversity and inclusion – particularly for those from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background.

“In numerous forums, staff provided examples of how they were disrespected, discriminated against, and their views were disregarded.

“These centred particularly on recruitment, development and fair treatment. Staff told us that the work on diversity and inclusion felt tokenistic and didn’t lead to sustained improvements…

“This was felt to be a long-standing problem for which staff felt that no meaningful solutions or improvements had been implemented.”

The report also said:

  • Staff described how the “bullying nature” of one senior leader had led to a number of staff leaving the organisation, and the CQC said it corroborated this with evidence provided during the inspection;
  • Many staff expressed fears of reprisal for raising concerns and described an unsupportive leadership environment, while some told inspectors they had experienced detriment after raising concerns;
  • Staff felt troubled by high turnover rates within the workforce (18 per cent) and executive team (21 per cent) over the last two years, with the report saying “they felt executive leadership was unstable and people believed people were leaving due to poor board behaviours and people [were] leaving before they were ‘pushed’”;
  • The organisation’s culture did not encourage openness and honesty at all levels; and
  • There were areas where governance processes needed to be strengthened.

However, the inspectors stressed the cultural concerns were not universal and found many positive aspects of the agency’s operational work.

It added: “Staff were proud to work for the organisation and all staff CQC spoke to had a personal and organisational commitment to provide high-quality services.”

In a message to staff yesterday, interim CEO Wendy Clark wrote: “Everyone the CQC spoke with during the inspection demonstrated both a personal and organisational commitment to provide high quality services. 

“They were consistently told that ‘we save and improve lives’. We should feel very proud of that.

“But we knew, following our staff survey, media reports over the summer and the resignation of the former chief executive, the CQC would also identify things we need to work on, particularly around leadership and culture…

“We have already begun to address the issues identified in the report and are an improved organisation from the one the CQC inspected this summer.”