By: Kimberly Rodrigues
A review of one of England’s largest NHS trusts has revealed a toxic work environment and repeated instances of bullying.
The Bewick report 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 Vaishnavi Kumar, a junior doctor who had died by suicide last year.
The West Midlands trust, which is responsible for four hospitals, has fully accepted the report’s recommendations.
The trust is responsible for Queen Elizabeth (QE), Heartlands, Good Hope and Solihull hospitals.
At 11:30 BST, the first phase of a rapid review was published.
The review was led by Prof Mike Bewick and conducted by independent consultants IQ4U. This review is one of three major investigations into the trust.
Professor Bewick’s report analyses the suicide case of junior doctor Kumar who blamed her death solely on the Queen Elizabeth (QE) Hospital.
Her father Ravi Kumar who is also a doctor believes 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 notes 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.
Additionally, according to the report, a senior staff member at the QE Hospital was not aware of Dr Kumar’s death and emailed her personally 26 days later to inquire about her job and salary.
Although the report notes some steps have been taken, it suggests that a fundamental shift is necessary in the way the trust cares about its staff as individuals.
Bewick’s report identifies three main concerns: areas of clinical safety concerns and staffing issues at Good Hope Hospital, cultural problems at the trust in terms of management and leadership, and an organisation that is reluctant to accept criticism.
The report provides four recommendations to improve clinical safety, governance, staff welfare, and culture, and Jonathan Brotherton, the trust’s current chief executive officer (CEO) welcomes them and additional independent oversight, while expressing satisfaction with the report’s overall view that the trust is a safe place to receive care.
The CEO acknowledges there are significant concerns to address and that they have started to take action.
They aim to create a positive and inclusive work environment where staff can do their best for patients. Although they cannot fix everything as quickly as they would like, they are committed to making changes as quickly as possible for the benefit of patients and staff, he said.
A spokesperson for University Hospitals Birmingham was earlier quoted as saying, “Dr Vaishnavi Kumar was a much loved and respected doctor who was popular with colleagues and patients alike.
“Her unexpected death was a tragedy, and our heartfelt condolences remain with Vaishnavi’s family.”