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South East Coast Ambulance: Bullying claims to be investigated

A row of South East Coast Ambulance vehicles
Image caption Allegations of harassment at South East Coast Ambulance are to be probed in an independent report

Claims of bullying at an ambulance trust are to be investigated.

Concerns about harassment at South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb) will be studied by Prof Duncan Lewis from the University of Plymouth.

On Monday, The Daily Telegraph reported claims of a "culture of bullying" at the trust, with staff subjected to abuse and harassment.

Secamb said the article covered "historical allegations", most of which had been dealt with.

The trust commissioned the investigation, which is being funded externally by Health Education Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

It said the probe has been planned for weeks and was not a result of the newspaper report. The initial investigation findings are expected in the summer.

'Disciplinary hearings'

The newspaper article, based on a dossier of documents, claimed two 999 call handlers attempted suicide and a third considered crashing her car to escape abuse.

Several workers claimed they were under such pressure they could not concentrate on emergency calls at the operations centre in Coxheath, Kent.

In response to the story, the GMB union described the trust managers as "unaccountable" and called on the government to intervene.

The trust said a project to tackle workplace bullying was being rolled out, alongside the review, as part of its broader recovery with NHS Improvement.

A spokesman said it had been "extremely well received by staff so far".

He added: "Regarding the allegations of bullying in Coxheath, this was fully investigated at the time.

"A number of disciplinary hearings were held and action taken where necessary. Those staff who raised the concerns, were and continue to be fully supported by the trust."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "Any instance of bullying within the NHS is unacceptable and we are working with our partners to support all NHS organisations to tackle this and create a culture where all staff are treated fairly.

"NHS Improvement is working with South East Coast Ambulance Service to ensure all allegations of bullying are properly and appropriately dealt with."

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