West Herts Trust non-executive director Jonathan Rennison  has publicly criticised the culture of Watford General’s maternity unit. Speaking in a Trust Board meeting on Thursday, Jonathan also talked about the responsibility of senior management and the Board. Referring to the maternity unit, he said:

“There are a small number of people, but they are very vocal and they are in some senior positions and they drive some poor behaviours as well as a narrative that undermines [inaudible] culture and I think we just really need to be clear that that isn’t acceptable behaviour. There are professional standards for how you work with others, how you have professional respect, how you treat others and we have to be clear about that and start driving that change more ….
“It’s about how we start to empower staff to feel comfortable with that and that they know that we will have their back and that there won’t be any retribution for calling out bad behaviour because that’s where it falls down, it’s the bystander effect. People are afraid to step in and call it out because they see what has happened to others. So we have to be more vocal and we have to be setting that tone and that message around this (Trust Board) table as well, and saying it’s not acceptable because otherwise that change never happens. It has to be set from the top.
“So great work has been done and I have to say Mitra [Bakhtiari, Director of Midwifery and Gynaecology, who is leaving the Trust] has been an exemplar in terms of her behaviour and she does call it out and gets an awful lot of unpleasant backlash that we are not necessarily aware of around this table and it’s about saying that is not acceptable. Just to say thank you to Mitra again for the work she has done …When she goes we need others to be stepping up and to be doing what Mitra has been doing so we don’t have that gap.”

A senior clinician responded by pointing to ongoing work to get the culture of Maternity better, including a number of recent events aimed at improving working relationships, notably a senior midwifery awayday and a consultant awayday. There are more programmes planned. In terms of improving the culture, he said, “We are on the right path”.