East of England Ambulance Service Trust signs legal agreement to protect staff from sexual harassment

Published: 28 Apr 2021

East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) has signed a legally binding agreement with us after it failed to take necessary steps to protect staff from sexual harassment.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) asked us to consider taking enforcement action against the EEAST in August 2020, after an inspection found that it had not done enough to address serious incidents of sexual abuse against both patients and staff.

Despite providing board members with “managing allegations” training and making changes to safeguarding policies around safer recruitment and suspension, EEAST was unable to demonstrate what work it had carried out to ensure that the risk wasn’t present in other areas of the organisation or on lone working.

We reviewed the evidence provided by CQC and found that EEAST had breached the Equality Act 2010 by failing to take appropriate steps to protect its staff from sexual harassment.

Alastair Pringle, Interim Chief Executive at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

“We expect our emergency health services to be a beacon of safety and security when we’re most in need. We were extremely concerned to hear about the issues raised at the East of England Ambulance Trust. No one should feel unsafe or threatened at work.

“Employers have a duty of care to protect their staff, and everyone has the right to a working environment that allows them to achieve their full potential. We hope that by working with EEAST we can make sure that the staff and patients are adequately protected from harassment and abuse.”

Dr Tom Davis, interim chief executive and medical director at EEAST said:

“The safety of our staff and patients is our top priority and our agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission reinforces this commitment. The Trust has acted quickly to address concerns and progress with the action plan and this has been recognised by the EHRC. This is a complex issue and we will continue to do everything possible at every level to further improve the protection of our staff.”

EEAST has agreed an action plan with us, which includes:

  • Conducting a staff survey to assess levels of sexual harassment within the Trust and conducting regular pulse surveys to monitor progress against the initial findings.
  • Implementing an enhanced training package for values and behaviours that responds to the findings of the survey.
  • Reviewing its Dignity at Work policy to include a clear harassment strategy statement and procedure.
  • Delivering a Board and Senior Managers’ workshop on sexual and predatory behaviour.
  • Delivering Managers training on the policies relevant to harassment, including Safeguarding, Dignity at Work and Disciplinary processes.
  • Carrying out a risk assessment to identify areas in the Trust where sexual harassment is most likely to occur and put mitigating actions in place.

We will monitor the implementation of the action plan to make sure that it is adhered to.

We recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the CQC which will improve co-operation and the exchange of information between both regulators to further safeguard the rights of people who use or work in health and social care services in England.

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