HEALTH workers have been ‘gagged’ from criticising the biggest shake-up of the NHS in Dorset, the Daily Echo can reveal.

Dorset HealthCare and Poole Hospital have sent a draft document banning employees from voicing their opinions about controversial proposals in a professional capacity – unless they are positive.

It comes just days after Dorset CCG launched a public consultation and insisted all views on its plans, which include relocating Poole Hospital’s A&E, maternity and paediatrics services to Royal Bournemouth Hospital, were vital.

Last night, Unison South West organiser Mike Cracknell said: “If Dorset health employers’ plans are going to have any chance of success, they must engage openly and fully, rather than issuing orders banning staff from speaking up about these risky plans.”

In documents seen by the Daily Echo, health chiefs acknowledge staff have a ‘range of views they may wish to express’ however, urge staff to:

Give feedback to the CCG as a citizen, professional or patient only in a ‘private capacity’ with ‘no reference’ to the trust.

Conduct 'in a manner which reflects positively on the trust’ when they either respond to the consultation or attend events.

The two page document titled ‘principles for staff engagement and response to the Dorset Clinical Service Review public consultation’ orders staff not to:

Give interviews, correspond or interact with the media without the consent of the Head of Communications

Take part in campaigns, protests or use any form of protest material on trust premises – or even outside of trust premises as a staff member

Bring any petition onto premises – and only sign one ‘in a private capacity.’

Furious staff representatives today defiantly refused to be silenced, branding the orders ‘inappropriate’ and called for bosses to redraft the guidance before it is sent out to all staff.

One staff representative said: “I understand the Trusts’ desire for reputation management, but it seems inappropriate to us that staff are instructed they may not speak out as staff and also may not make comments that are not positive.

“We do not see how this aligns with an open process of engaging with all stakeholders.”

As previously reported, Dorset CCG proposes to designate Royal Bournemouth Hospital as the county’s major emergency hospital leaving Poole Hospital for planned care.

A spokesman for Royal Bournemouth Hospital said no guidance has been issued to staff.

He said CEO Tony Spotswood spoke at a staff briefing to emphasise that everyone should take part - ‘no matter what their view, as every view counts.’

Health bosses defend 'gagging' document

Jacqueline Cotgrove, director of workforce and organisational development, Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are keen to actively encourage and support our staff to feed back their views as part of the CSR consultation process.

“In order to support staff during the consultation period we have produced guidance to ensure that they conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with the values of the Trust. We have asked staff not to bring petitions, campaign or protest material onto Trust premises thus avoiding the risk that patients could feel intimidated whilst in receipt of care and treatment.

“We have involved our staff representatives in the construction of these principles and feel they reflect our long standing and highly regarded values, known as the Poole Approach.”

A spokesperson for Dorset HealthCare said: “We haven’t issued any guidance telling staff not to make critical comments about the STP or the Dorset Clinical Services Review (CSR) public consultation. 

"In fact, we are encouraging all of our staff to respond to the public consultation and share their views about the proposals. 

"As people working in local healthcare services and for the most part, living locally, they have a unique perspective and their contribution to the consultation is incredibly important.

“We have drafted some principles which support everyone to speak up and join the debate while ensuring we’re always mindful that patient care is our priority.

"We’re working with Trade Union colleagues to make sure these principles feel appropriate to all before we issue anything to our staff.”

A spokesman from NHS Dorset CCG said it has worked to involve all 16,000 of the local NHS workforce by delivering copies of the consultation document and keeping them involved throughout the 12 week consultation period.

He added: "During the consultation phase we will continue to invite views from anyone living in Dorset, including members of staff.”

Health shake-up a "serious concern to everyone living in Dorset"

CAMPAIGNERS have branded the public consultation into controversial health shake-up plans in Dorset ‘unclear’ and a ‘serious concern.’

Keep Our NHS Public has written a damning open letter to Bournemouth and Poole Health and Wellbeing Board ahead of its meeting today where members will discuss the Clinical Services Review which is part of the county’s Sustainability and Transformation Plan.

It reads: “The CCG proposals to close A&E services, maternity services, community hospitals and GP practices are of serious concern to everyone living in Dorset.

“However in addition to facing the threat of losing our vital NHS services we are further handicapped in challenging the CCG proposals because the CCG do not clearly and briefly spell out in any one document what their proposals actually are.

“Anyone completing it would have to have an exhaustive knowledge of current services across Dorset to understand the implications of the options the CCG are offering, or to be able to spell out in the blank ‘other options’ box what should happen instead.”

A spokesman for the group added: “We ask members of the Dorset CCG to consider their positions before they help the government to accelerate their dismantling of a publicly run and publicly accountable NHS.”

Tim Goodson Chief Officer NHS Dorset CCG invited Keep Our NHS Public to meet up and answer any questions they may have.

He said the public consultation which runs until February 28 has been quality assured by the Consultation Institute and has been the subject of ‘rigorous national assurance’ from NHS England.

He said: “The Clinical Services Review Consultation document – Improving Dorset’s healthcare – clearly and simply sets out our proposals and recommendations for how services in Dorset could change in the face of a number of challenges. These include increased demand, staff shortages and a significant funding gap of around £158m within the next few years. The document states what is and isn’t part of the review.

“The Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) and the Primary Care Commissioning Strategy and Plan are strategic documents; therefore there is no requirement to consult on them.”

Dorset CCG is hosting a number of public events to encourage people to give their views on the CSR and to ask questions about the proposals.

For more information about the events and the proposals go to