Britain’s largest mental health trust spent a year investigating multiple allegations of bullying, intimidation and harassment against staff, only to compensate an executive at the centre of the claims who was entitled to a £170,000 package after being suspended for a year on full pay.
West London Mental Health Trust launched an inquiry in March 2013, following complaints over the conduct of Andy Weir, the then £110,000 a year executive director of specialist and forensic services, who sat on the West London board in charge of the Trust’s 32 sites, which include Broadmoor hospital.
The investigation into his conduct looked at claims that Mr Weir “bullied, harassed and intimidated staff” and whether his management style “led to a climate of fear and intimidation where staff feel concerned about raising concerns relating to both themselves and standards of clinical care”.
A heavily redacted copy of a 59-page report, seen by The Independent on Sunday, was presented in June that year. It made two recommendations, one of which is not censored, asking whether relations between Mr Weir and staff who complained about him “can be improved by mediation”. Mr Weir’s evidence to investigators is heavily censored but does reveal he felt staff that made complaints against him “were collaborating in respect of their evidence”.
The report was finalised in October 2013. Despite uncovering “concerns with the culture in forensic services”, Mr Weir remained suspended on full pay for a further five months. He resigned in March 2014 before the overall investigation was complete to take up a senior role in another trust.
Mr Weir walked away from the trust with £170,303, despite not working for 12 months. He is now working at the Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.
A spokesperson for West London said: “The independent investigation did not lead to any formal management action against Andy Weir but highlighted concerns with the culture in forensic services …
“We also introduced a comprehensive staff engagement and management development programme to improve the culture and morale of the organisation and address concerns around bullying and harassment.”
A leaked “communications handling plan” concerning Mr Weir’s departure, seen by the IoS, revealed that, if asked whether Mr Weir was “being made a scapegoat in a witch hunt by disaffected members of staff”, the trust would say: “We have carefully considered the concerns raised by members of staff but were not able to complete the investigation we undertook before Andy found a new role at another trust.”
The West London spokesperson said: “Given the personally challenging circumstances of the investigation Mr Weir understandably decided to apply for a job elsewhere … Mr Weir did not receive a pay-off of £170,000. Under his NHS terms of employment he received what he was contractually entitled to receive.”
When asked why after one year West London had not completed its investigation into Mr Weir, the trust spokesperson said: “While the investigation report was completed, the trust was still considering its response to the investigation report and its findings.”
A spokesperson for the Leeds and York Trust said: “The trust can confirm that we were aware of the allegations made against Andy Weir and had discussed these with him prior to his appointment. We are not able to comment any further as these allegations relate to Mr Weir’s former employment.”
Mr Weir declined to comment.
Although successive annual West London trust staff surveys in 2012 and 2013 revealed that a significant percentage of staff had reported bullying and harassment, the allegations came to public attention last year during the whistleblowing tribunal of psychologist Dr Hayley Dare. She had complained of feeling “bullied, intimidated and harassed” by Mr Weir and took her concerns to the chief executive, Steve Shrubb.
Dr Dare had taken the trust to an employment tribunal. She lost her case on a legal technicality that no longer exists, but appealed against the decision. Both parties came to an agreement last week, with the trust admitting that Dr Dare had acted in good faith and the public interest when speaking out about a culture of bullying and harassment.
The trust had spent £130,000 in legal fees and Dr Dare agreed to withdraw her appeal, bringing an end to the case.