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NSFT Deputy Director Cass Byford Criticizes 'Clown Culture'

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September 23, 2022 at 7:00 AM

The deputy head of the region’s failing mental health trust blamed a “clown culture” that has hampered efforts to improve the organization’s fortunes.

Kath Byford has used the term to describe the working conditions she has encountered at the local Mental Health Trust (currently under special measures) since joining the company in May.

She identified a number of internal issues she said were alienating staff and hampering attempts to improve the organization’s performance.

Mrs Byford made a candid comment at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust board meeting on Thursday.

She said many workers left feeling they could not be promoted within the organization unless they were part of the “crowd.”

She added that a “microculture” had taken root and some staff felt excluded or left out of the clique.

“There is a perception and reality that people are ‘given’ jobs, which is seen as divisive and unfair,” she said.

“This is why people leave feeling they are not being given a fair or equal chance to progress.

“We have to get rid of the clown culture where people feel they are inside and out. That’s a big part of our problem.”

The comments came during a discussion about how to improve staff morale and retention, which are integral to the standards of mental health care the Trust provides to its patients.

They come just weeks after leaked letters from 140 of the trust’s own doctors who said they were “lack of confidence” in the organization’s leadership.

This trust was rated insufficient by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in April, with regulators highlighting many concerns about the safety of the service.

During the inspection, an extensive list of 108 actions were identified for the trust to address.

A report submitted to the Board revealed that 87% of these have been addressed so far.

During the meeting, it was confirmed that the Confidence of the Month is addressing these challenges, and CQC inspectors are now assessing progress.

Trust Chairman Zoe Billingham told the conference that CQC inspectors had visited the wards during September and that some of these evaluations had already taken place.

NSFT Chief Executive Officer Stuart Richardson added:

NSFT CEO Stuart Richardson

NSFT CEO Stuart Richardson
– Credit: NSFT

discrimination dossier

A report presented at the conference acknowledged that there are “deep pockets” of discrimination within the Trust.

It was highlighted that Black and Ethnic Minority Workers (BAMEs) were more likely to be fired during disciplinary action and were more susceptible to abuse from colleagues and patients.

Richardson said the trust has a “zero tolerance” approach to any form of discrimination, but acknowledged there is no quick fix.

“This does not mean that we are labeling people as racist, homophobic, transphobic, or anything like that. We do not expect people to be publicly shamed.

“But this is an important task for us and we need to make sure we have a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of discrimination.

“We are really determined that we need to stop it and get to the heart of this long-standing problem.

“Doing nothing is not an option.”

BAME employees in trusts are 27% more likely to be fired than white workers, according to the report.

Since April 2021, three BAME employees have been dismissed from the trust, and five non-BAME employees have suffered the same fate.

However, only 7 BAME workers received disciplinary action compared to 31 non-BAME workers. This means that the dismissal rate is 27% higher than his.

Mrs Byford added, “We want everyone who works for the Trust to feel safe, appreciated, respected and supported.”