The Isle of Wight NHS Trust says it is doing everything it can to eliminate bullying, meanwhile union GMB says the alleged bullying of staff needs to be addressed.

It comes after three GMB regional organisers entered St Mary’s Hospital in Newport to hand out leaflets and a survey last week.

The Trust says at the request of staff security staff attempted to discuss the issue with the representatives but when the representatives would not amend their behaviour Hampshire Police were asked to intervene.

In response to the incident the Trust says union and professional body activities cannot be allowed to interfere with patient care.

Isle of Wight NHS Trust’s Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development said:

“We make facilities available to a range of recognised unions and professional bodies for local and regional representatives working together to participate in meetings and negotiations on terms and conditions.  With our support they hold awareness raising activities around Trust buildings and we support their communication with their Members in a variety of ways. It is important to us that staff are appropriately represented and representatives are appropriately supported. However union and professional body activities cannot be allowed to interfere with patient care and we have to respond to concerns raised with us by staff.”

Julie Pennycook added:

“Whilst I am very happy to meet with representatives from the GMB they have not, as yet, formally asked to be recognised by the Trust.  Nor were they willing last week to tell us how many of our staff they represent.

We do not want a confrontational relationship with the GMB and we would encourage them to develop a good working relationship with the other unions and professional bodies. We are doing everything we can to change the culture, eliminate bullying and encourage an atmosphere in which staff  feel able to speak up.”

Updated 14.55pm

A GMB spokesperson told Isle of Wight Radio:

“GMB are recognised nationally across the NHS and reserve the right to speak to both GMB members and employees at St Marys Hospital IOW with our without the permission of the HR department. The accusation that GMB interfered in any way with patient care is quite frankly beyond ridiculous and unless Julie Pennycock wishes to evidence her comments then she should withdraw the statement and apologise. She is simply trying to get some sympathy whilst those whom she and her department are responsible for are left to suffer.

It is a fact that the Care Quality Commission has placed St Marys in special measures over the bullying of staff and this needs to be addressed.

The GMB were on site at St Marys and have been recently distributing to employees a bespoke Health and Safety executive “management standards tool indicator” which asks questions that range from “I get the help and support I need from colleagues” to “I am subject to bullying at work”.

They added:

“The trust were made fully aware that this was being distributed and when GMB arrived security and Police spoke with the GMB officials present and Police made the decision that as the GMB were not doing anything at all wrong they could stay. This seems to have infuriated Ms Pennycock as she could not stop a light being shone on this problem which her department should be addressing. Indeed whilst on site, GMB received unconfirmed reports that one of the individuals specifically allocated as responsible for addressing bullying at the hospital had recently themselves seen action taken against them for Bullying.

GMB spoke with both the senior consultant on site and a leading member of the management team on the day. We explained that the surveys were HSE specific and the outcome detail is to be forwarded to them once generated in an attempt to highlight “specific” staff concerns to management so they may focus on areas for improvement. We are really not sure why Julie Pennycock is now misleading the public other than she is the person responsible for addressing the bullying  and seems to want to put out misleading details and simply smile and brush the matter under the carpet. Once Police had left the site, GMB Officials spent an hour in the staff canteen with the head of communication and engagement, Mr Andy Holborn. At that informal meeting a polite and positive coverstaion took place and genuine progress was made in how staff can be supported and engage with the GMB however Ms Pennycock seems blissfully unaware of this and seems hell bent on derailing any independent support staff may be offered by GMB. The message from GMB to Ms Pennycock is quite simple, GMB will continue to engage with members and employees at St Marys Hospital IOW and shall be on site again soon.”