AN NHS trust boss insists staff are encouraged to report incidents of failure to protect hospital patients – but almost half of staff disagree.

Mid and South Essex NHS Trust was rated ‘requires improvement’ overall by the Care Quality Commission in a report which highlighted staff were ‘fearful’ to report concerns to leadership.

The trust's leadership is adamant it provides staff with the framework and support to voice concerns, but a survey of staff reveals a different picture.

David Walker, chief medical officer for the trust, said: “The trust was rated as good for care and the safety of patients is our highest priority.

"The safety of patients is our highest priority. We encourage staff to report any incidents which occur within the trust, so we can investigate them fully and learn any lessons which can help us ensure that nothing similar happens in the future."

However, CQC inspectors reported that 41 per cent of staff they interviewed during inspections of the trust’s services strongly disagreed or disagreed that they felt safe to report concerns while 48 per cent said that when they do speak up, feedback is “not acted upon by senior management”

At Southend’s emergency department CQC inspectors were told by staff they “did not feel respected, supported or valued”.

Prior to inspection the healthcare watchdog received four whistleblowing concerns from the department, alleging poor culture within the service.

Outlining some of the challenges faced by the trust which formed in April 2020, chief executive Clare Panniker said: “We merged to become one of the largest Trusts in the country in the middle of a global pandemic, at the most challenging time the NHS has ever known. To be rated as Good for care and for providing effective services is a real achievement.”

Of the five inspection criteria, the trust was rated ‘requires improvement’ in safety, leadership, and responsiveness but was rated ‘good’ in care and effectiveness.

“Inspectors found that there were staffing challenges across the trust, mandatory training rates were not as high as they should be, and there was a mixed culture across the organisation,” Ms Panniker added.

“Mandatory training rates have increased significantly since the inspection, and we have introduced new values and a behavioural framework as part of our culture programme. We now have a range of activities to support the health and well-being of our staff and more than 100 frontline buddies providing peer support.”