Ambulance trust forced to sign legal agreement over sexual harassment

The East of England Ambulance Service has been plunged into special measures following its latest CQ

EEAST has had to sign a legal agreement following concerns it had not addressed accusations of serious sexual abuse. - Credit: Archant

Enforcement action has been taken against the region's ambulance service for failing to protect staff from sexual harassment. 

The East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) has been told by the Equality and Human Rights Commission that it has breached the Equality Act 2010 by not addressing serious incidents of sexual abuse against both patients and staff.

Last year, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) placed the trust in special measures after inspectors found evidence of bullying and sexual harassment.

Inspectors also found that 13 staff had been reported to police for inappropriate behaviour towards other staff and patients, including sexual harassment allegations.

The CQC asked the Equality and Human Rights Commission to consider taking enforcement action, with the body finding the trust had been unable to demonstrate what work was being carried out despite training and changes to safeguarding policies, around safer recruitment and suspension.

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.”

In the legal agreement, the trust has agreed to conduct a staff survey to assess the levels of sexual harassment,  carry out training including a workshop on sexual and predatory behaviour and risk assessment into where harassment is likely to occur.

Dr Tom Davis, interim chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service Trust

Dr Tom Davis, interim chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service Trust - Credit: EEAST

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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.”

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