Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group is facing serious questions over its leadership and culture amid allegations of bullying, favouritism and harassment.
An article published on Monday in Health Service Journal said current and former employees have described the working environment there as ‘toxic’.
One source told the HSJ about a ‘breakdown in relationships’ and a ‘culture of coverup’ with things ‘changing dramatically’ after accountable officer Maddy Ruff joined the CCG in 2015.
Another described the culture as ‘uncaring and unhealthy’.
The article in the HSJ, which covers stories about the NHS, healthcare management and health policy, comes a week after it was revealed that CCG’s medical director Zak McMurray had been suspended on full pay for more than a year.
The HSJ report said he was put on ‘special leave’ in February 2018 after he raised a whistleblowing concern against Ms Ruff.
The CCG would neither confirm nor deny Dr McMurray’s absence on full pay but he has now confirmed it in a statement.
He said: ”I can confirm that I have been on special leave for just over a year now.
“I wish to reassure my patients that my absence is not due to a disciplinary process and is not conduct or ability related. I am unable to comment further at this time.”
Dr McMurray’s suspension and wider concerns about the culture of the organisation led a group of Sheffield MPs to call on NHS England to undertake an independent review.
This review is now complete but its findings have not been made public.
The CCG said the findings will be published on Friday, despite initially explaining they would be made public in the summer.
The report, which has been leaked in full to the HSJ, is understood to confirm many of the concerns and identifies issues about poor behaviour by senior CCG staff, dissatisfaction over the handling of bullying and harassment cases, a lack of a clear strategy and poor relationships between members of the governing body.
Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts, who was one of those calling for the review, said he was disappointed the report had not yet been shared with them.
He said: “Increasingly it looks like bad news management. It is not acceptable for a public body to behave in this way.
“The review is supposed to be independent and they should publish it without their spin on it.
“The MPs who called for this review should have a copy of it and the GPs who have been kept in the dark about it should have a copy of it.”
Earlier this month, Mr Betts said that concerns about the way the CCG had been operating had been being raised with him and a number of his colleagues.
These included Dr McMurray’s suspension as well as the CCG’s management culture, the atmosphere working there, favouritism and conflicts around appointments.
“More than a dozen senior people within the CCG, people in the Council and other organisations came to us and expressed a whole range of issues,” he said.
“We asked for the review because concerns had been raised by so many people which clearly indicated that something needed putting right.
“I have never experienced as an MP so many people coming to see saying things are not working properly.”
Maddy Ruff, Accountable Officer, said: “The independent 360 assessment’s report, commissioned by NHS England, recognised the CCG has a ‘great number of strengths and is in no sense a failing CCG’.
"This includes having committed staff and governing body, and having a good range of initiatives to improve staff health and wellbeing. However, there were also areas which need to be improved.
“Although we’re disappointed with some of the findings of the report, we recognise we could do better and will tackle all the issues in the report. We are taking the recommendations in the report seriously.
“We are already making improvements, as our recent staff survey with 88% of our staff shows that staff morale, the CCG acting fairly in terms of career progression and promotion, staff being given training and development, and the number of staff recommending the CCG as a place to work were all higher than national average.
“To help become an “outstanding” CCG, an improvement plan will be presented in public to our governing body in May. The findings of the report along with the progress made so far will be presented at our governing body on 7 March.”
Sheffield CCG is one of the biggest clinical commissioning groups in the country and is responsible for spending more than £800m each year.