Health board launches own whistleblower review
By Democrat reporter
A review of whistle-blowing procedures is to take place at Scotland’s largest health board following a BBC investigation into safety fears at its flagship hospital.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde was criticised by senior doctors who said attempts to highlight risks to patient safety were not taken seriously.
Medics spoke about their concerns to BBC Scotland’s Disclosure.
NHSGGC says it will examine how issues raised by staff are investigated.
In the programme, Secrets of Scotland’s Super-hospital, doctors said they were branded “troublemakers” for raising the alarm.
A series of infection outbreaks – and at least four deaths – are being investigated at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus in Glasgow.
There were fears that the infections could be linked to the building.
The £840m flagship hospital campus, which includes the QEUH and the Royal Hospital for Children next door, opened in 2015.
A leaked report showed that warnings about the risk of water contamination were issued just days after it opened.
The health board said the issues had been investigated thoroughly. It said action had been taken and the hospital was safe.
In September last year, the Scottish government announced a public inquiry after it emerged there had been widespread water contamination and substandard ventilation at the site. This will begin on 3 August.
Now NHSGGC says its own own inquiry will examine how issues are investigated and what actions are taken after concerns are disclosed.
The board said known whistle-blowers will be asked if they experienced any negative repercussions such as discrimination after disclosing issues.
A spokeswoman told BBC Scotland that the health board had always supported staff to speak up as it was an “essential element of ensuring patient safety”.
She said all staff who raised concerns were protected through whistle-blowing policies.
The spokeswoman added: “We take all concerns raised through the NHSGGC whistle-blowing processes very seriously and action has been recommended in the majority of investigations.
“We are currently reviewing whistle-blowing within NHSGGC to identify any actions required to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of the existing NHSGGC whistle-blowing system and to consider the impact of the new national standards on any issues identified.”
A whistle-blowing champion, Charles Vincent, has been appointed to oversee the review, which is expected to last six to nine months.
The move was welcomed by the British Medical Association.
Doctors and epidemiology experts who spoke to the Disclosure programme.
Dr Lewis Morrison, chairman of its Scottish council said: “Legitimate concerns have been raised at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. It is vital when this happens that staff have faith in the system that operates, and that this system is entirely focused on ensuring that healthcare is being delivered safely and in a safe setting.
“If as a result of doctors, or healthcare staff, raising legitimate concerns they are then subject to repercussions, or made to feel they were in the wrong for doing so, then this will not help our NHS to provide safe care, or people to feel confident in coming forward in future.
“It is absolutely right that NHSGGC make sure their whistle-blowing policies are robust, particularly given the findings in the BBC investigation.”
Barbara Sweeney, the RCN Scotland’s senior officer, said that whistle-blowing should be the last resort.
She said: “The health board must also ensure that more is done to create an open and honest workplace culture where staff feel safe to raise concerns and have confidence that these will be dealt with effectively.
“Ensuring that there are effective processes for staff to raise concerns would reduce the need for whistle-blowing in the first place.”