Report States Treatment Of Staff Lacked ‘Fairness, Balance And Compassion’
Specialist lawyers representing the widower of a woman who died while under the care of the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust have expressed concerns after an independent review was published into the handling of whistleblowing within the Trust.
The review was commissioned by NHS Improvement in February 2020 at the request of the Department for Health and Social Care.
It came after an anonymous letter raising concerns around patient safety was sent to Jon Warby, the widower of 57-year-old Susan Warby, from Bury St Edmunds, who died under the care of the hospital Trust in 2018. It was subsequently reported that the hospital asked staff for fingerprints and handwriting samples in a bid to identify who wrote the letter.
The report, which has been published today, states “the decision to seek to identify the letter writer was impractical and unwise” and was “an intimidating process that distressed and damaged individual staff members” while lacking “fairness, balance and compassion.”
The report found several issues with the treatment of staff within the hospital Trust, including questions over doctor and patient safety, and that concerns raised by senior clinical colleagues were “effectively ignored.”
The report goes on to say that “staff should be free to challenge without fear” and be able to report any concerns to the General Medical Counsel and members of the Trust Board without being accused of “undermining” colleagues. Furthermore, “the freedom of all staff to raise concerns about issues affecting patient safety, without the fear of reprisals, disciplinary action, or other detriment, is extremely important” and “a culture where staff feel the need to keep their heads down has to be addressed.”
Expert Opinion“The findings of today’s report outlines the need for urgent improvements within the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.
A culture where staff are afraid to speak up not only has a damaging effect on staff, it can potentially compromise patient care.
Transparency is key to helping maintain confidence in the NHS and staff must feel that they can speak freely on any issues within the hospital without fearing the consequences.
Meanwhile, as always, where failings have been identified, we urge that lessons are learned to improve patient safety.”
Gurpreet Lalli - Senior Associate Solicitor
Irwin Mitchell has previously secured settlements for families which have been affected by failings in care at the Trust.