The heart-breaking suicide of Vaishnavi Kumar where bullying and condescension were cited as contributing factors must be a turning point: MP
By: Chandrashekar Bhat
Birmingham Edgbaston’s MP Preet Gill has urged the health secretary to hold a public inquiry into the alleged “toxic culture” at University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) that has had an “alarming impact” on staff and patient care.
In a letter to Steve Barclay, Gill said she was “inundated” by messages from past and present UHB employees who shared their experiences of being bullied and demeaned for raising concerns about certain policies and practices that compromised patient care.
The Birmingham and Solihull Integrated Care Board (ICB) had announced a three-part investigation following the revelation by BBC Newsnight that doctors at the trust were “punished” for raising safety concerns.
However, the shadow international secretary raised the flag over the independence of the review, saying several members of the board were previously part of the senior leadership team.
She said the ICB probe would not offer “the independence required to recommend the changes that are so needed or give confidence to whistleblowers”.
Referring to the case of Queen Elizabeth Hospital doctor Vaishnavi Kumar who ended her own life recently after being reportedly “belittled” at her “hypercritical” workplace, Gill said it should serve as a moment of truth.
“In the wake of the inquest following the heart-breaking suicide of Dr Vaishnavi Kumar where bullying and condescension were cited as a contributing factor in her death, I am absolutely determined that this must be a turning point for the trust,” the shadow international secretary wrote.
“The story I am hearing time and again is that staff who raised concerns about something that they thought was putting patients at risk were often ignored and then penalised for doing so,” the Labour-Co-op MP said.
An NHS Birmingham and Solihull spokesperson told the Guardian that the first of three reviews into the concerns about the culture at UHB would be led by an “experienced independent clinician from outside the area.”
The spokesperson said UHB was “grateful” to Gill for contributing to the terms of reference of the review.
A dedicated reference group would steer the review and ensure its independence and transparency, the spokesperson said.