Doctors want whistleblower ‘victimisation’ inquiry

SENIOR medics have written to the health secretary Shona Robison to call for an “urgent and wide-ranging” judicial review into the treatment of whistleblowers at a major health board.

Robison declined to comment on 'an ongoing employment matter'. Picture: SNP
Robison declined to comment on 'an ongoing employment matter'. Picture: SNP

The letter signed by 21 consultants raises “grave concerns” over NHS Grampian’s decision to suspend the Queen’s personal surgeon Professor Zygmunt Krukowski and Dr Wendy Craig last month after both doctors spoke out over issues at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

More than 800 people have signed a petition calling for the reinstatement of Prof Krukowski and Dr Craig, who are understood to have raised concerns during internal interviews.

The letter said: “Consistently, these ‘whistleblowers’ have been isolated, dislocated from their work to the detriment of patients, subjected to damaging psychological pressure and finally referred to the GMC and suspended from duty.”

A number of staffing changes were made at the troubled health board last year after Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) published a damning report highlighting chronic staffing problems, allegations of bullying and a lack of leadership within NHS Grampian.

An NHS Grampian spokesperson said it had been a “challenging time” but good progress had been made since the HIS inspection as they had accepted all of the recommendations made.

The doctors expressed support for the chairman and chief executive in their letter but called for the reinstatement of both Prof Krukowski and Dr Craig, as well as a judicial review into management at NHS Grampian to stop “catastrophic rot” within the health board.

The letter, which is also signed by former NHS Grampian medical director Dr Donnie Ross, said: “Allied to the haemorrhage of irreplaceable staff, the recruitment and long-term retention of first-class staff have become next to impossible, as a consequence of the toxic atmosphere created in the hospital of which we used to be so proud.”

Whistleblowers must have confidence that their health board and the Scottish Government will take their concerns seriously, said Labour health spokesperson Jenny Marra MSP.

She said: “I do not believe any whistleblower takes that course of action lightly so they must have the confidence that they will be listened to, their concerns investigated, and for their action not to have undue repercussions in their own careers.

“The SNP health minister Shona Robison said yesterday that they had set up the whistleblowers’ helpline, but that is not enough alone. A culture of listening and improvement must be pervasive throughout health boards if whistleblowing is to be as effective as we would expect.”

An NHS Grampian spokesperson said: “We acknowledge this has been a challenging time. We firmly believe we are making good progress in addressing the issues raised. The HIS review did not raise any consistent or widespread concerns about patient safety or about the quality of care across NHS Grampian.

“We continue to fully support staff who raise patient safety concerns and investigate each case thoroughly.”

Ms Robison said: “The NHS in Scotland has clear, robust whistleblowing procedures in place.” It would inappropriate to comment on an on-going employment matter, she said.