Eastern Eye (UK)
Trust accepts plans to change ‘toxic culture’
REVIEW REVEALS ANGER OVER SENIOR STAFF MISSING DOCTOR’S FUNERAL
ONE of England’s largest NHS trusts, where senior staff failed to attend the funeral of junior doctor Vaishnavi Kumar after she took her own life, has been found to have a toxic work environment and repeated instances of bullying.
A review into the West Midlands Trust was commissioned after BBC Newsnight reported that staff at University Hospitals Birmingham felt a culture of fear had compromised patient care.
Among the report’s criticisms was the anger felt by staff members that senior staff had not attended the funeral of Kumar.
The trust, which is responsible for Queen Elizabeth (QE), Heartlands, Good Hope and Solihull hospitals, has fully accepted the report’s recommendations.
The review is one of three major investigations into the trust.
Professor Mike Bewick, a former NHS England deputy medical director, led the review and it was conducted by independent consultants IQ4U.
Bewick’s report analysed the death of junior doctor Kumar who blamed Queen Elizabeth (QE) Hospital.
Her father Ravi Kumar, who is also a doctor, said he believed the hospital “destroyed” her. He earlier told Birmingham coroner’s court that his daughter felt the QE was a “hypercritical environment to work in”.
Giving evidence at the investigation, he said, “She used to say it was a very hypercritical place. They used to pick up small little things, belittle and be a bit condescending in the way they used to behave there. Most of the time she used to come back home and cry a little bit.”
The report noted senior colleagues’ absence at her funeral, causing disappointment and anger among the staff who felt the hospital had kept itself away from the Kumar family.
In addition, a senior staff member at the QE Hospital was not aware of Kumar’s death and emailed her 26 days later to inquire about her job and salary, the report said.
“The trust should come out openly and accept this has happened. They should find out who the people are who are responsible for this and take appropriate action,” said her father. “Otherwise, people will not have confidence in any of these inquiry panels and committees if there is no visible action.”
Although the report noted some steps have been taken, it suggested a fundamental shift was needed in how the trust cared about its staff as individuals.
“Our overall view is the trust is a safe place to receive care,” said Bewick. “But any continuance of a culture that is corrosively affecting morale and, in particular, threatens long-term staff recruitment and retention, will put at risk the care of patients across the organisation – particularly in the current nationwide NHS staffing crisis.
“Because these concerns cover such a wide range of issues, from management organisation through to leadership and confidence, we believe there is much more work to be done in the next phases of review to assist the trust on its journey to recovery.”
Jonathan Brotherton, the trust’s current chief executive, acknowledged there were significant concerns to address and that they had started to take action.
“We fully accept his recommendations and welcome the additional assurance that has been asked for through further independent oversight,” he said.
“We want to develop a positive, inclusive work environment where people want to come to work, in a place they are proud to work in, to do their very best for our patients.
“While we will not be able to fix things as quickly as I would like, we do need to do it as quickly as possible, for the benefit of patients and staff. I am committed to ensuring this happens.”