The Independent London Newspaper
24th April 2017

Hospital offers birthday treat to staff: Croissant breakfasts with the chairman

    Whittington chairman Steve Hitchins is offering coffee and croissants with him t

    Whittington chairman Steve Hitchins is offering staff the chance to have coffee and croissants with him to mark their birthdays

    Published: 27 May, 2014
    by TOM FOOT

    HOSPITAL staff are being invited to Continental-style birthday breakfasts with the Whittington chairman as part of a series of morale-boosting sessions.

    Each month Steve Hitchins will hold a breakfast at the hospital and the NHS Trust’s 4,000 staff are being offered the chance to share croissants and freshly squeezed grapefruit juice with him in the month of their birthday.

    The invitations have already become known as “Hitchfasts” among some staff, not all of whom believe they amount to much of a treat.

    The move follows a calamitous staff satisfaction survey earlier this year which pitched the Highgate hospital among the worst in the country.

    Shirley Franklin, chairwoman of the Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition, said: “You’ve got to remember that the last Christmas party was cancelled at the last moment because staff didn’t want to go. You have to win the trust of staff. Inviting them for breakfast, when clearly no one will want to go, shows how out of touch Hitchins is with his staff.”

    A former Whittington medical secretary, one of 27 secretaries who lost their job in a staff “reorganisation” last year, said: “I think I’d rather do hara-kiri (ritual disembowelment).”

    An internal memo sent out this week to all Whittington staff said the Hitchins breakfast was a chance to “put forward any issues” to the chairman, while insisting that question marks over his former employment by his Euro MP wife was not a subject open to debate. 

    Last week, Mr Hitchins told the New Journal that he had been paid up to 30,000 euros each year as a member of his wife Baroness Sarah Ludford’s staff since 2006. 

    Campaigners had claimed this was a conflict of interest for a hospital chairman who is supposed to be “apolitical”. 

    The staff memo – sent from managers – said “we are clear” that “there is no conflict of interest by board members in the running of the organisation”. 

    Mr Hitchins – a former Lib Dem leader of Islington Council for six years – said he was working on “projects and services” for his wife, but had not been paid by her since taking over the Whittington on January 1 this year.

    The staff bulletin also promoted a new hospital “Ethics Forum” with a meeting this Tuesday titled: “Should clinicians always tell their patients the truth?”

    On top of the “Chairman’s Breakfast”, staff are being invited to become life coaches and attend an “inspirational masterclass” by a motivational speaker next month.

    It added that there are now 23 staff who have joined up to become trainee “life and motivational coaches” and that “thinking environment sessions” are also on offer.

    Managers are also invited to attend an “inspirational masterclass” from speaker Steve Head, of Steve Head Ltd, in hospital meeting rooms next month.

    The bulletin also mentions that drugs in the pharmacy department had to be disposed of after sewage dripped into a small area from the pipes above. 

    It adds: “This was caused by paper hand towels which were flushed into the system resulting in a blockage. We would like to thank pharmacy staff for their support this week.”

    A Whittington spokeswoman said: “Our chair, Steve Hitchins, is introducing a monthly breakfast meeting to give staff from across the organisation an opportunity to have an informal conversation with him and raise any issues they may have.

    “In response to the results of our recent staff engagement survey we have introduced a range of activities. The Trust is committed to supporting staff to fulfil their potential and use their skills to deliver high-quality care for our patients. We have now introduced a coaching and mentoring hub which has a number of coaching events which includes a masterclass in coaching.”

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