Birmingham MP Preet Gill has called on the UK Health Secretary to launch a major public inquiry into allegations that bullying and a toxic culture were putting patient safety at University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) at risk.
The MP for Edgbaston, where UHB is based, said she had received complaints from staff alleging elderly patients had been left on beds in corridors outside wards due to poor management, and doctors were discouraged from talking about the problems.
In a letter to Steve Barclay, seen by the Guardian, Gill said: ‘I have been inundated with messages from UHB staff, past and present, who have contacted me to share their experience of what has been described repeatedly as a toxic culture that has had an alarming impact on staff and patient care.
After an investigation by BBC Newsnight earlier this month found trust doctors had been ‘punished’ for raising safety concerns, the Birmingham and Solihull Integrated Care Board (ICB) announced a review in three parts of the UHB culture. The first report is expected at the end of January.
But Gill criticized the plans, saying she didn’t think it would be “enough to adequately investigate this scandal”, and instead called for a major independent public inquiry, similar to the 2013 Francis inquiry into the Stafford hospital scandal.
“We cannot rely on an ICB investigation to resolve this issue. Many of the members of the ICB are former members of the UHB management team and would not offer the independence required to recommend the changes that are so badly needed or instill confidence in whistleblowers,” said she declared.
Gill has revealed details of more than 30 messages she has received from current and former UHB staff over the past few weeks. “The story I hear time and time again is that staff who raised concerns about something they felt put patients at risk were often ignored and then penalized for it,” he said. she declared.
A staff member said: “Patients are not getting adequate care. The staff is broken. Micromanagement, verbal aggression from everyone.
Another said: “Senior management makes dangerous plans and ideas a reality and implements them regardless of what clinical staff think. We’ve had elderly patients crying and begging to go back to A&E because they’ve been left in a hallway for hours outside a ward.
Gill said the death of Dr Vaishnavi Kumar, who worked at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, “must be a turning point for trust”. An inquest last month revealed Kumar took her own life after feeling ‘minimized’ at work, with her father claiming she described it as a ‘hypercritical place’.
UHB runs several hospitals, serving 2.2 million people and employs 22,500 people, making it one of the largest NHS trusts in the UK.
A spokesperson for NHS Birmingham and Solihull said: ‘The first of three reviews of concerns over culture at University Hospitals Birmingham will be led by an experienced independent clinician from outside the region.
“We are grateful to Preet Gill for contributing to the terms of reference for the review and for his invaluable support alongside the other local people and organizations who will work within a dedicated reference group that will lead the review and ensure its independence and transparency.
Birmingham University Hospitals said: “We welcome the support that has been put in place and look forward to working positively and constructively with our NHS colleagues.
“This will build on the work already underway in UHB to understand the issues that have been highlighted. It is very clear that there is a strength of sentiment in a number of areas and we are determined to address it.
“Our goal now is to continue to provide quality care, while supporting all colleagues, as we head into a particularly difficult winter period.”
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