A JUNIOR doctor at NHS Tayside took their own life amid a training culture blighted by “systemic bullying and negative cliques”, it has been claimed.
MSPs were told that the health board’s whistleblowing champion, Munwar Hussain – who has since quit – was alerted to concerns by another trainee medic during the summer.
Read more: NHS Tayside whistleblowers’ champion quits – says serious concerns ‘not taken seriously’
Mr Hussain, who is currently on sick leave with stress, wrote to the Health Secretary Jeane Freeman and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on September 11 confirming that he would be stepping down from his role when he returned to work.
It followed a previous letter sent to Ms Freeman on September 3 in which he claimed serious issues at NHS Tayside “were not being taken seriously” by the senior management.
Mr Hussain has declined to go into detail publicly about the problems which he felt were not being tackled, but in bombshell revelations in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon Labour health spokesman Ana Sarwar said he had obtained a copy of Mr Hussain’s letter to the Health Secretary.
Mr Sarwar told MSPs that Mr Hussain was alarmed after being contacted in June by a former trainee doctor in Tayside who said they had left the NHS “due to issues of systemic bullying and negative cliques”.
This medic went on to tell Mr Hussain that “people were raising issues but these were not being acted upon by managers”, said Mr Sarwar.
This included allegations that another junior doctor at NHS Tayside “took their own life and the stress was unbearable for some”.
Mr Sarwar said that Mr Hussain wrote in his letter that his request to raise the matter at a board meeting was rejected, and twice in August meetings he had arranged with NHS Tayside’s director of workforce were cancelled.
Mr Sarwar said the allegations were “deeply worrying”, adding: “[Mr Hussain] did eventually raise the matter at a staff governance committee but felt in his words that ‘this is viewed as an ongoing issue that is tolerated’.”
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Ms Freeman said it was appropriate that the concerns relating to the junior doctor’s suicide were discussed in the staff governance committee and “not in a wider board meeting”.
She added: “The specific allegations, which were raised by one doctor, are under investigation.”
Ms Freeman also confirmed to MSPs that some of the other concerns raised by Mr Hussain included prescribing practices, senior staff pay, and use of public funds.
She said all the issues raised “have been dealt with”.
Ms Freeman said a paper would be put to the board in October proposing that senior staff salaries and expenses should be published, while the Royal College of Physicians in London would undertake an independent review into the dosages issued for some medications.
Read more: Poor culture at NHS Tayside ‘in a league of its own’, says Shona Robison
NHS Tayside has been plagued by scandal in 2018, including revelations that it breached its own rules to raid £3.6 million from its charity fund to pay for new IT.
It has also came under fire for “misrepresenting” its accounts since 2012, failing to suspend a senior neurosurgeon who harmed patients for years, and its mental health services are being probed after claims patients at the Carseview Centre in Dundee were “pinned to the floor” and “bullied”.
Ms Freeman said the Scottish Government was determined to secure “significant cultural and structural reform”, which must include welcoming whistleblowers.
She added: “In some instances there will be concerns raised that prove to be ill-founded.
“Not raised in a malicious way, but simply that when the facts are looked at there is no particular foundation for them.
“But nonetheless, if a member of staff has the view that something is of concern then it should be treated very seriously.”
Dr Lewis Morrison, chair of BMA Scotland, the doctors’ trade union, said: “It is essential that NHS staff feel that they can share their concerns without risk of victimisation or repercussions.
“Those who have the courage to come forward must have confidence that their issues will be taken seriously, dealt with confidentially and in a timely way.”
NHS Tayside said former radiographer Trudy McLeay – a non-executive board member – would replace Mr Hussain as the whistleblowers’ champion.
A spokeswoman for NHS Tayside said: “Bullying in any form is never tolerated and all concerns are taken seriously, with the NHS Tayside Medical Director taking a lead on matters relating to doctors in training.
“We can confirm that all allegations raised in Mr Hussain’s letter to the Cabinet Secretary are currently being investigated through the appropriate channels.”
Source : HeraldScotland