In March 2016, the Bullying and Harassment in the Health Sector audit conducted by the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office revealed that complaints were being poorly managed in Victorian health services, and that staff did not trust or feared using the complaints process. This resulted in significant under-reporting of inappropriate behaviour, including bullying and harassment.
In response to these findings, the Bullying and Harassment in Healthcare Advisory Group identified initiatives to strengthen the grievance processes and support for Victorian healthcare staff. One initiative was to trial an independent facilitator (IF) role in Victorian health services.
We trialled the IF role at two acute health services in metropolitan Melbourne – The Royal Women’s Hospital and Melbourne Health – for 19 months from March 2019 to October 2020, with one IF allocated to operate across both health services. The trial also operated in four regional health services from March to August 2019.
The purpose of the trial was to provide healthcare workers with:
• an independent avenue for support and to help them clarify their concerns
• access to information, resources and tools
• information about the options available to address their concerns
• help to navigate the existing internal and external complaints processes and pathways available to them
• support to learn new ways to address issues and concerns themselves, including having difficult conversations.
The IF role also aimed to support senior health service management, Safer Care Victoria and the Department of Health and Human Services by:
• providing aggregated and de-identified information about the use of the service, systemic issues (if present), and opportunities for improvement, with the aim of supporting health services' work to provide safe, fair, positive and respectful workplaces
• preventing, responding to and better managing inappropriate workplace behaviours, including bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination in health services.
The IF model delivered benefits for the healthcare staff who used the service and for the health services.