British Sikh MP Preet Kaur Gill has called on the Health Secretary to initiate an independent inquiry into the alleged bullying culture at University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB), which is seriously impacting the staff and patient care.
In a letter to Steve Barclay, Gill said she has been inundated by messages from the UHB staff, who have shared their experiences of what has been repeatedly described as a “toxic culture”.
“Staff have been bullied and demeaned for raising concerns about policies and practices that they believe have compromised patient care, and in some cases even led to deaths,” the MP for Birmingham and Edgbaston wrote in her letter.
Gill said that whistle-blowers have told her about a “put up or shut up” culture, which has often veered into outright bullying.
Staff and former staff members have described to Gill as being harassed over several years, leading to counselling, depression and extended periods off work.
“Some staff described a culture of fear so draconian that staff were afraid to go to the toilet,” the Shadow International Development Secretary said.
Highlighting the case of Queen Elizabeth Hospital doctor Vaishnavi Kumar, who took her own life after feeling ‘belittled’ at work, Gill said that “this must be a turning point for the Trust”.
An inquest found last month that the 35 year-old Indian-origin doctor ended her life after she struggled to cope up with “bullying and condescension at work”, and often returned home crying.
Gill reacted after seeing reports first aired on BBC Newsnight in the first week of December about the bullying culture at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.
The Trust manages several hospitals including Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which comes under Gill’s constituency.
Five patients were given wrong blood at the haematology department of this hospital, according to reports.
After the BBC report, the Birmingham and Solihull Integrated Care Board (ICB) announced a three-part review into the culture at UHB.
The first report is expected at the end of January 2023.
Gill disagrees that the review will be sufficient to adequately investigate this scandal.
“There has been a failure of leadership, failure of governance and a failure of regulation that must be unearthed and addressed,” via an “independent inquiry”, Gill stated.