Thursday 14 December 2017

HSE bids to tackle staff blame culture

Edel Kennedy

HEALTH chiefs have admitted their staff have a problem accepting responsibility -- so they are sending them to workshops to teach them how to be accountable for their actions.

Workshops are to be set up for staff of all grades, and their performance will be tracked and assessed in the hope of providing better patient services and reducing complaints.

Staff will also face sanctions if they resist the changes.

An extensive plan on changing attitudes within the Health Service Executive (HSE) is being put in place with the help of outside experts after health bosses acknowledged "significant shortcomings in the system of healthcare governance in many areas".

Amongst the cultural blocks within the organisation are "attitudes to taking personal responsibility" and "attitudes to external scrutiny".

Documents obtained by the Irish Independent show management has acknowledged an attitude amongst staff that prevents accountability. It warns that without a system for dealing with failures the automatic reaction will be a "blame culture and a culture of studied avoidance and abdication of personal responsibility".

An internal report was compiled by Dr Joe Devlin, national director of Quality & Clinical Care with the HSE, titled 'Achieving Excellence in Clinical Governance: Towards a Culture of Accountability'.

It warns that without accountability, the risks to patient safety can increase with "catastrophic consequences".

The report is being supplied to all companies which are tendering for a HSE contract to provide "Healthcare Governance and Accountability Consultancy Advice".

However, the document is not being made publicly available unless the company formally identifies itself.

Dr Devlin stresses the need for staff supports as well as consequences for actions taken by staff members.


"Consequences can include. . . denial of promotion, withholding of entitlements, suspension, deregistration or termination of employment."

However it is widely acknowledged within the HSE that sacking a member of staff is always resisted by the health unions.

The HSE said that amongst the "challenges" to greater accountability was a "tense industrial relations environment".

"The organisational structure remains fluid and incomplete," it states in the tender.

"Many new management positions have been recently established or are due to be established."

The new layer of management comes at a time when the HSE is facing a further €1bn of cuts.

Irish Independent

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