East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) staff will see more support, training and earlier intervention to protect their mental health and wellbeing both – inside and outside of work – as part of an action plan announced today (13th May).
The plan will address recommendations published by EEAST today following an independent investigation into the three tragic and unexpected deaths of EEAST ambulance staff in November last year.
The three members of staff each died within the space of three two weeks, sending shockwaves across the wider emergency services & NHS community.
The investigation, undertaken by independent investigator Christine Carter, began in December 2019 and involved interviewing over 40 witnesses, including the families of the three staff members who passed away.
A spokesperson for EEAST confirmed that the investigation aimed to provide EEAST with:
- a clear understanding of the events leading to each of these unexpected deaths
- any associated learning concerning the management and support of staff within the organisation and
- any wider organisational learning and development.
The investigation culminated with 12 recommendations being made to the Trust Board of EEAST.
EEAST confirmed that, as a result of the recommendations, it has devised an action plan to ensure that the recommendations are implemented as soon as possible.
Dorothy Hosein, EEAST Chief Executive Officer, said:
“Losing three members of our staff in tragic circumstances is extremely sad. Each of these separate incidents reveals a deeply personal story and a terrible loss with a huge impact on families, close colleagues and across the wider service.
“We all know work and home life are not easily separated.
“Staff wellbeing is influenced by personal, family and other relationships and experiences, as well as their employment. This has not been reflected in some of our policies and management of issues, which are still too tightly focused on just workplace performance.”
“Every day our staff do fantastic work at the frontline of healthcare and often in very demanding circumstances. That is more true today than ever before. This investigation brings home clearly that the Trust must do more to support the mental health of staff if they suffer problems or anxiety in their private, family or work life.
“I am committed to instilling a culture which sees, respects and cares for all staff as individuals. To do this, we will move fast to improve our wellbeing policies and practice so they recognise and support the whole person, in and out of uniform.
“This will mean taking rapid and robust action to address issues arising in the workplace, and outside of work as well. My aim is for all our managers to listen to and support colleagues and spot any early signs where help might be needed.”
Commenting on the recommendations, Dorothy Hosein said:
“We are already making progress on our action plan to address these recommendations. Half of our actions will be completed by the end of this month, with all the recommendations addressed by the end of September. We will continue to provide regular updates to the Board and online.”
A summary of the recommendations is below, with the full wording available here.
The 12 Recommendations were as follows:
ONE: The Trust should produce specific guidance on the management of serious incidents involving the death of a member of staff.
TWO: Cross-reference new guidance for management of death in service serious incidents with on call systems and guidelines document
THREE: Cross-reference new guidance for management of death in service incidents with the Management of Serious Incidents Policy, making specific reference to serious incidents involving death of a staff member.
FOUR: Guidance for the welfare and management support of staff on sick leave should be included as an appendix in the Sickness Absence Policy (and Disciplinary Policy in relation to the rules of sickness absence applying when a person is suspended and on sick leave).
FIVE: The Trust should develop guidance for managers regarding supporting staff who are experiencing mental health problems (whether off sick or still at work).
SIX: The Trust should develop training for managers in supporting staff with mental health problems – in partnership with specialist mental health professionals, building on the guidance developed under recommendation 5.
SEVEN: The Trust should consider how it can contribute to and learn from the range of suicide prevention strategies and initiatives across its catchment area and incorporate suicide prevention into its strategic goals.
EIGHT: The Trust needs to establish a programme of change and development to address sexual harassment and change the behaviours of staff and managers that enable it to thrive. This will require some facilitation and support for the management team to undertake this task.
NINE: The Disciplinary Policy should be amended in relation to suspension of staff. The policy should include a clause reflecting the need to undertake a risk assessment at the time the decision to suspend a member of staff is made.
TEN: The Trust should review its arrangements for first line management support in order to move to a model that provides front line staff with consistent and regular line management support.
ELEVEN: Senior Operational Managers (Deputy COO and Heads of Operation) should be reminded of their responsibilities under the Duty of Candour Policy to deliver the Duty of Candour message.
TWELVE: The Trust should carefully consider the findings of all current investigations, together with this one to assess any common themes or consistent messages that would suggest the need for remedial actions and further organisational development initiatives.
The investigation into the deaths contained a significant amount of personal details relating to the individual staff members, their families and colleagues.
Because of this, EEAST has said that it will not be releasing the full report ‘to protect the privacy of the families’.
However, EEAST has said that, in the interests of transparency, that it has published the full recommendations and that the Trust shared the report with the Care Quality Commission and with NHS England/Improvement.
Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org Mental Health Charity’ Mind’ also operate a mental health helpline for members of the emergency services. To make contact with a member of their team, call 0300 123 3393.
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