NHS whistleblowers have reported bullying, harassment and discrimination among dozens of complaints about management at south Essex hospitals.

Worrying reports from staff in Basildon, Southend, and Broomfield hospitals have revealed staff are facing “untenable pressures” to work overtime which is negatively impacting their performance and wellbeing.

Hard-pressed staff reported being treated unfairly, without consideration of their feelings and without compassion.

One complaint involved a manager “who routinely holds discussions on the phone with staff regarding private and sensitive issues on a loud speaker phone with their door open, despite being told that it is upsetting staff”.

Shockingly, medics are also increasingly in fear of their own safety. Seven cases related to incidents of staff being attacked or feeling threatened with violence by patients or visitors.

These cases led to improved control measures like push button alarms, environment changes and de-escalation training for staff in high-risk areas.

A spokesperson for campaign group Save Southend NHS said: “We have experiences and evidence from many practitioners, who have stated that too often their concerns are ignored by management.

“Common consequences described by staff raising such concerns include poorer standards of communication, dysfunctional teams, reduced staff confidence, reduced staff performance and poor mental health.

“It is therefore reasonably foreseeable that poor standards of behaviour between staff could lead to higher staff absence rates, reduced focus on patient care, more human error, and reduced care capability.”

The Guardian Service, an independent and confidential service which protects NHS staff who raise concerns, has reported a rise in complaints from staff at Southend, Basildon and Broomfield hospitals A report highlighting complaints says staff across Mid and South Essex have raised 248 new concerns between April 1, 2023 and March 31 this year – an increase of 70 on the previous year.

The highest numbers of concerns involved management issues with accusations of incivility, bullying, harassment and discrimination.

There were also 110 complaints from nursing and midwifery staff.

Both medical and administrative staff complained of alleged dishonesty and lack of transparency in communications. They also felt complaints of bad behaviour made against management colleagues were not dealt with appropriately.

There was also a perception that pressures on bed management was “damaging the clinical capability of individuals and teams”.

Despite some improvements following the whistleblowing, the report said: “There is a perception from some staff across the NHS that whistleblowing is dangerous for your career.”

Matthew Hopkins, chief executive of the Mid and South Essex NHS Trust, said: “Our first priority is providing the highest quality care for our patients. We know that an open and honest culture, where our staff feel safe to raise concerns, enables us to continuously improve the care we provide. The confidential and independent Guardian Service works alongside our own Freedom to Speak Up Champions to help support staff to raise concerns.

“Over the last year we have promoted the service, which has successfully increased the number of cases being reported to the Guardian Service. In turn, this has helped to improve the speak up culture within our hospitals.”