HEALTH: Clinicians write to Sturgeon over ‘unfounded’ hospital criticism

By Bill Heaney

Criticism of the way the Health Board and Scottish government are tackling the ongoing crisis at the Queen Elizabeth Maternity Hospital and Royal Children’s HospiTal – both of which serve Argyll and West Dunbartonshire – continues to grow.

Labour leader Anas Sarwar, pictured right,  has told the Scottish Parliament that he was contacted by two “senior clinicians” from the hospital about two further deaths of children there. He said thesed senior medics were afraid to speak out publicly because of a culture of “bullying and intimidation”.

The party will call for MSPs to vote that they have no confidence in health board bosses, and that it should be taken under government control.

However, in a letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, the 23 senior clinicians said they were writing to express their “immense disappointment and frustration” about the way their hospitals, colleagues and the treatment of their patients was being portrayed in the press and in the Scottish Parliament.

“We have been, and remain, fully committed to being completely open and transparent in all that we do and we are dismayed that the integrity of our staff has been repeatedly called into question,” the letter says.

“Do we always get everything right when we discuss issues with families? Perhaps not. Do we ever wilfully withhold information from them? Absolutely not.

“We have grave concerns that the continued undermining nature of the current negative headlines will result in an erosion of trust between clinical staff and patients and their families.”

Milly and mother
Ten-year-old Milly Main died after an infection at the Royal Hospital for Children

The clinicians said staff had reported that families were “very anxious about the safety of their relatives while in our care”.

The letter, which was published in full on The Democrat,  adds: “We are particularly disappointed that individual patients are being discussed in parliament without the knowledge of the families concerned, causing untold distress to families already grieving the loss of their loved one.”

“This unfounded criticism of our clinical teams and staff as well as the safety of our hospitals, is also hugely detrimental to staff morale at a time when so much is being asked of them.”

The clinicians said they accepted there would always be improvements that could be made but said there was a commitment from every clinician working within NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to provide the best quality of care and to be open and honest with patients and families about their diagnosis and treatment.

Hospital mould
These photographs were taken at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow
Hospital mould

Scottish Labour have now shared photographs revealing examples of mould growth inside the hospital.

The photographs come from an academic paper published earlier this year exposing the risks of water in seeding infection inside hospitals.

Mr Sarwar said: “It has been two years since the culture of cover-up and secrecy at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde was brought to light. People are still dying from preventable hospital-acquired infections.

“Today’s vote is a line in the sand… MSPs have a choice, they can side with families, clinicians and those campaigning for patient safety or they can back a culture of secrecy, cover-up and incompetence which has had fatal consequences.”

A statement from the health board said: “For continued claims to be made that we are less than fully open and transparent across all areas of patient care and building safety is of serious concern, and we are deeply saddened by the way in which the commitment and working practices of our staff at the QEUH and RHC are being portrayed.

“Previous investigations into such claims, including by the independent review, concluded that there is no culture of organisational bullying within NHS GGC. We are very concerned that these allegations persist as we have seen no additional evidence to substantiate any such claims.”

The statement added that the health board remained “fully committed” to addressing any concerns raised by patients, families and staff.

‘Exceptional care’

Speaking about the photographs of mould, a Scottish government spokesman said: “Where there is any evidence of mould, steps are taken to remove it with full infection prevention and control oversight.”

He said the academic paper made it clear that there was no harm to patients caused by the mould and that mould grows in UK hospitals on a regular basis.

“NHS staff in the QEUH and across Scotland continue to provide exceptional care to their patients and are currently doing so in the face of unprecedented pressures brought by the pandemic,” the spokesman said.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, pictured above right, said he would enact any public inquiry recommendations.

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