A children’s hospice which provides vital end-of-life care and respite for Wigan families has had its staff culture criticised in a shock report.
Derian House, which gives palliative care to some of the borough’s most vulnerable and seriously-ill youngsters and also has an army of Wigan fund-raisers supporting it, is the subject of the damning findings of the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
Inspectors found a working environment that was “extremely unhealthy and broken” at the Chorley-based hospice and examples of staff feeling bullied.
However, the CQC said this was all kept extremely well hidden from the young patients and their families, leading to an outpouring of surprise and sadness at the report’s publication.
“The issues staff were experiencing were not adversely affecting the care and support offered to children and young people using the service,” the report concluded.
The charity is extremely popular with Wiganers, with recent fund-raisers including teenagers from high schools across the borough and a seasonal festival at a pub and restaurant in Appley Bridge.
Money was also collected for the hospice at the funeral of tragic borough teenager Tyler Yates and the Nicholls family from Wigan raised £10,000 for Derian House in memory of their 16-year-old son Danny last year with the help of the Wigan Warriors.
One Wigan family who have benefitted from the hospice’s respite service also told the Observer how shocked they were at the CQC’s findings.
Inspectors went to Derian House after receiving information from a whistleblower and spoke to 57 past and present employees in an “unprecedented” investigation.
What they uncovered was a disturbing culture where many staff felt uncomfortable with how they were treated.
“The information painted a picture of a service where staff felt vulnerable, bullied and unable to express their views freely without being reprimanded for doing so,” said the CQC report.
“The vast majority of staff we spoke with did so at length and went into detail. Some were visibly upset and fearful of speaking to us.
“All the staff we spoke to were aware of cultural issues at the hospice.
“Much of the information we were told by staff related to a specific individual, although some other senior members of staff were mentioned.”
Derian House says its trustees and management team are now working on an action plan “to address any areas of concern identified by the CQC.”
The CQC downgraded Derian House from an overall rating of “good” to one of “requires improvement” following the unannounced six-day inspection in October.
Of five categories examined, two - caring and responsive - were classified as good, while safe, effective and well-led were all deemed to be in need of improvement.
Offices said they originally intended to do a focused inspection looking at just fire safety and cultural issues raised by the whistle blower. But they upgraded it to a full inspection as a result of what staff were telling them.
“A large percentage of staff we spoke with and had contact with told us of a working environment which we judged to be extremely unhealthy and broken,” says the report.
“We heard many testimonies about how staff were bullied, belittled and how they felt unable to raise these concerns within a safe environment.”
The inspectors said many staff wanted their interviews to remain confidential because they feared they would be sacked for speaking to the CQC team.
Julie Atherton, acting chief executive officer and clinical director, said: “Whilst our rating was slightly lower than at our previous inspection in 2016, we found much to recommend the hospice in the CQC’s comments about the care and services we provide.
“As an organisation, we are of course focussing attention on the CQC’s comments to take up their recommendations. In the meantime, Derian House will continue to provide the high level of specialist hospice care and support for which it is renowned.”