University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust was one of the original organisations to sign the Bristol Zero Tolerance pledge in March 2015. We caught up with Sue Donaldson, Director of Workforce and Organisational Development, Alex Nestor, Head of Human Resources and Deputy Director of Workforce Development, and Teresa Sullivan, Equality and Diversity Project Lead to find out what they already have in place and their plans for the future.
University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust is the largest teaching hospital and has approximately 8,500 staff across Bristol, 70% of which are women, following the general NHS trend. They also provide support to patients presenting to various different services with different gender-based violence issues and health needs.
Therefore, their approach to Bristol Zero Tolerance includes support for staff internally as well as what they do to support patients and their families. In particular they have a Safeguarding Team who provide training and support across the organisation informed by the gender-based violence issues that they come across on a daily basis. As Sue Donaldson notes “we are really keen that staff coming into the organisation are safe, so one of the things we do as part of induction and then periodically thereafter is safeguarding training so that those staff who come into contact with vulnerable people absolutely know how to respond. That is basic training for everybody regardless of the job that they do here, but then mindful that some of our departments probably come into contact with more vulnerable people than others, some people get much more specialist training, particularly thinking about our emergency departments, and also some of the team up in the Women’s and Children’s Centre. And that absolutely fits with this agenda, but also we are not just interested in looking out for our staff to ensure that they know what to spot, but also that people using our services are signposted appropriately.”
The emergency department includes an Independent Domestic and Sexual Violence Advocate (IDSVA) and there are Domestic Violence Leads in A&E who are available for patients and also provide training for staff. Patients coming in will receive immediate support but their safety and confidentiality is key, so rather than being approached directly there is general awareness raising within the services such as information around the wards, waiting rooms and patient areas.
For staff there are various support mechanisms including the occupational health and counselling service which provides information and signposting to external services, and the Trust is signing up to the Health and Wellbeing Charter to ensure appropriate support for staff. As part of Bristol Zero Tolerance they will also be updating the internal intranet to make sure that the Health and Wellbeing pages include information on gender-based violence and links to their safeguarding pages as well as external websites where sources of support are available. Teresa Sullivan explained that services such as The Bridge are “available to employees as well because the system for staff is completely separate from the patient system so staff can maintain anonymity should they wish to and be a member of the public receiving that support. It’s really important that our employees are aware of all the support that is out there for them, so that is the biggest project this year.”
The Trust have had various schemes to create safe working environments over time, such as providing attack alarms and an escort service by security staff to cars or public transport late at night, but they want to take this work further and being part of Bristol Zero Tolerance is a natural next step. As Alex Nestor says “this is part of moving forward and is very supportive to our staff and a good message to let people know it is happening” and Sue adds “although we think we have some solid foundations in terms of a package of training and signposting people using our services, we always want to do better.”
Therefore, signing up to the initiative makes sense for the Trust, as Sue says “it is the right thing to do. I think it is consistent, not just with our approach to safeguarding, but with the Trust’s values, and for me respecting everyone comes into that so it’s simply just the right thing to do. And as a big employer in Bristol it is in terms of the duty of care we have towards the 8,500 people who work here and provide services to the population of Bristol.”
Creating a Zero Tolerance City was also key for all three women, to Teresa “it means I can walk around the city I was born in and still live in without fear, that’s really important to me, I should be able to do that anywhere.” For Sue having a Zero Tolerance would mean that “in the unlikely event that something untoward happens people won’t turn a blind eye and it isn’t acceptable and there is a challenge and support.”
They also felt strongly about increasing the awareness and support for Bristol Zero Tolerance. As Alex notes “how do we get other employers signed up? How do they see the benefit for their own staff? That could be small businesses or the larger employers, but it would be great if it was just something that happened around here and everybody knew about it and you promote that as something that every business should want to aim for.” They hope that the initiative and their involvement will also create better understandings of different forms of gender-based violence. For Teresa “it’s about all groups, we have seen the street stencils recently on LGBT hate crime [from Bristol Pride] and it is broadening it out so that everybody realises that gender-based violence in any way shape or form towards any group is unacceptable.”
For Sue “it is about us being part of the community and our social and moral obligations as part of the community to make sure we are absolutely behind it, supporting it, doing the right thing as part of it. It would be really remiss of our duty of care if we weren’t… And it’s not just about organisations, it’s about communities – schools, churches, the whole shebang!.. So for me it goes beyond the organisation, it goes to the heart of the community, and how do you influence at that level?”
We are glad to hear that University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust understand and are committed to the wide ranging issues around gender-based violence and providing an appropriate service for all. We look forward to working with them towards a Zero Tolerance Bristol.