The headline above is not strictly accurate. Following an internal review (which was late) WUTH have released a few more crumbs for the time period I specified:
- 3 members of staff have departed the Trust, including the director (name still not declared publicly)
- In a 6 month period (July 2013 to January 2014) 24 grievances were lodged relating to dispute issues that remain hidden
- The director received 10 months’ pay, but we won’t know the actual figure until the accounts are published in June 2014. Even then we’ll have to piece it together like a jigsaw by selecting the right “Band”, and may have to make another request
- The director signed a compromise agreement which contained a “confidentiality clause”. This works just like a gagging clause and prevents the signatory from talking about the circumstances of their departure
- An extra clause (not the confidentiality one) in the agreement went as follows:
“For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in this Agreement shall prejudice any rights that the Employee has or may have under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and/or any obligations that the Employee has or may have to raise concerns about patient safety and care with regulatory or other appropriate statutory bodies pursuant to her professional and ethical obligations including those obligations set out in guidance issued by regulatory or other appropriate statutory bodies from time to time.”
Here’s a link to the FoI request, which was updated on 11th April 2014:
With all the rumours that have been swirling around, the vital question that’s not being addressed here is: was there an outbreak of management led bullying at the Trust? Off the record, I’ve been told there was, and have no reason to disbelieve it.
24 grievances lodged implies something was / still is going dreadfully wrong. As far as this request goes, all the queries aimed at gleaning more information have been sidestepped through multiple use of the Section 40(2) exemption – the trusty stalwart of management chancers – the abuser’s catch-all friend that seems to step in time and again to bail out public servants when the heat is turned up.
Frustratingly for members of the public like me, who’ve waited 3 months to get this far, this exemption is absolute and has no regard for public oversight. You can’t argue that the public interest is strong because that suggestion has been ruled out and is not up for consideration.
Imagine you were an employer who had unchecked bullying flaring up all around, 24 grievances lodged, an extremely unhappy workforce, and low morale – all potentially issues which could spill over into the trust’s performance and treatment of patients (i.e. members of the public, the people these managers serve).
Then imagine that waiting in the wings are some handy get out of jail free cards:
- Management restructures
- Compromise agreements
- Confidentiality clauses
- Section 40(2) refusals, blocking the release of what you regard as “personal data”, even if it’s no such thing (e.g. investigators’ reports)
You will get cocky and you might even start pushing people around yourself, knowing that waiting in the wings is a ready recourse to assorted ways and means of covering up, used either individually or in combination. This supposedly accountable public organisation have been able to suspend a Director, investigate her externally, have a reshuffle, send her packing, withhold the amount of the payment, withhold the subject of the dispute, withhold the subject of the investigation, withhold the investigator’s report – and gloss over it – all done behind closed doors.
That simply is not on.
I will appeal this request to the Information Commissioner, but it’s possible he too may take the easy option, fall into line, lay prostrate and back the Trust up to the hilt.
See here for a very similar request placed with a county council. This is currently at appeal with the ICO.
And here’s another similar request placed with Wirral Council. Also at appeal with the ICO.
Eventually, the public finally learned it was Sue Green, Head of HR who’d left the trust, £205,000 richer. Unlike targeted and besieged whistleblowers, she was never out of pocket and landed a similar role just around the corner at Fazakerley Hospital