PROSPECT Hospice’s chief executive has urged supporters to stay with them, despite allegations of bullying and staff shortages at the Wroughton charity.

Next week, health watchdog the Care Quality Commission is expected to report on the hospice. Its visit followed an anonymous letter from a staff member claiming the hospice was understaffed and had seen a rise in clinical incidents. Prospect refutes this.

Allegations of bullying on the hospice’s in-patient unit at the end of last year also prompted four workshops, aimed at encouraging a more positive workplace culture. However, the last of these four sessions appeared to go badly wrong, with suggestions that a staff member was left in tears. One Prospect director has been forced to apologise for the way she managed that session.

Then, this week the hospice found itself criticised by the family of a young cancer victim who died after being cared for in Prospect’s in-patient unit. They told the BBC that staff shortages had left Mary Palmer, 21, wetting the bed and waiting for strong painkillers.

Angela Jordan, chief executive of Prospect Hospice, said she feared the series of allegations could hit fundraising efforts. But she urged Swindon supporters to stay with them.

The former nurse said: “I’m hopeful that the people that have experienced our care and who do believe in us will rally behind Prospect Hospice and support the staff and volunteers in saying this is a great place and they will continue supporting us.

“Hundreds of families across Swindon have been in receipt of care or support over the years that Prospect Hospice has been here. They will themselves have been witness to the extraordinarily high standards of care we provide here.

“I’m proud of Prospect Hospice. I’m deeply passionate about the way we can be alongside people as they move towards their death.”

She offered an apology to Miss Palmer’s family: “I am deeply sorry they have felt any sense of anxiety at all over any involvement they may have had at Prospect Hospice.

“I’m sorry as well that they felt that the high standards of care that we pride ourselves on was not met in their circumstances.”

However, the hospice monitored both staffing levels and patient experience at the hospice, she said. On both measures, the 16-bed in-patient unit was performing well.

There was typically one nurse for every three patients. The recommended ratio is for one registered nurse for every eight patients. Ms Jordan said 95 per cent of patients and family members were satisfied with the care they received.

But, in a wide-ranging interview Ms Jordan said that Prospect had been forced to address allegations of bullying at the in-patient unit.

At the end of 2017, complaints from staff and volunteers resulted in Prospect running four “positive culture” workshops. The first three passed off without incident.“After the fourth workshop it was very evident that staff were not happy with the way it had been handled,” Ms Jordan said. “We took steps to understand their concerns by way of an anonymous survey so staff could feel they could say anything they wanted.”

An independent consultant's report found that the original bullying complaints were valid and the workshop “could have been handled better”. Claire Robinson, director of patient services, has apologised to staff for the way she managed the sessions. ProspectHospice was not able to confirm that one staff-member was left in tears after the session.

Ms Jordan felt that those responsible for any bullying were a tiny minority, but pledged she wouldn’t stop until she got to the bottom of it.