Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham

Statement on Care Quality Commission (CQC) review of leadership at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB)

March 8, 2024

The latest Care Quality Commission (CQC) report into University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) shows just how far the new leadership team has to go in earning the trust and confidence of staff who have suffered under the toxic culture exposed by the organizational reviews – including a culture review commissioned by UHB itself – undertaken after a number of whistleblowers bravely came forward to the media.

The report makes clear that elements of that culture were still evident when the CQC investigation took place last year: in the worrying number of staff who have experienced or witnessed bullying, in a lack of confidence that staff are being listened to, and racial and other discrimination. It also provides more evidence of the ‘medical patriarchy’ identified in previous investigations, not only through the numerous examples of misogyny and harassment reported by female members of staff, but also in the stark gender pay gaps at every level of the trust.

That this culture negatively impacts patient safety is beyond doubt, and is apparent in the CQC’s downgrading of the ‘safe’ rating for critical care to ‘requires improvement’. Healthwatch is particularly concerned that the CQC identified too little learning from investigations into patient safety concerns, and by how long these investigations take. As the organization representing the interests of patients in Birmingham and Solihull, we believe it is completely unacceptable for patients to have to wait so long for their concerns and complaints to be resolved. UHB leaders have told us that they are addressing these issues. Healthwatch will continue to press UHB make the process speedier and more transparent, and we are in ongoing dialogue with the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman, about their own representations to the Trust in this area.

However, Healthwatch does acknowledge that the CQC investigation took place only a month after the publication of the culture review, and shares the belief that it will take time for some of the changes made during the ongoing organizational restructure to take effect. We are pleased to see improvements in senior leaders becoming more visible and approachable to staff and patients, and Healthwatch has been assured by the new UHB leadership over their commitment to change.  This now needs to be reflected in more staff feeling respected and valued. Healthwatch receives regular praise from patients for the care delivered at UHB for which the staff should feel proud, and if the Trust leadership also listens to and demonstrates pride in its staff, this is an important step towards making UHB a place everyone can be proud to work.

– Richard Burden, Chair, Healthwatch Birmingham & Healthwatch Solihull

* Image by Tony Hisgett, CC BY-SA 2.0

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