Whistleblowers on Lincoln hospital safety and understaffing

This story is over

Former staff at Lincoln County Hospital have spoken out about problems of safety and understaffing, which they claim were flagged up but never addressed.

In an interview with BBC Look North, retired nurse Linda Curtis said she constantly raised concerns about patient safety during her 10 years working there, but nothing really improved.

Concerns included staffing levels, as well as newly qualified doctors being left unsupported and overwhelmed by their workload.

She said: “There were times when it did feel dangerous. There were times when patients waited in my opinion far too long for treatments that they should have had. It could be a matter of hours for pain relief, for fluids, to be seen by a doctor.”

Former nurse and midwife Jayne Greig took early retirement after trying to raise concerns, but claims she was then simply seen as awkward and trouble.

She wrote to the chief executive after leaving, telling him how intolerable it had been to work in the maternity unit. but claimed 18 months later all she had received back was a confirmation of receipt.

Jayne said: “There was bullying to the middle line managers and favouritism on the ward, which doesn’t make people work in an honest way. It becomes an area where you don’t want to work any more and you have enough, hence I retired.”

ULHT responded saying they did contact Jayne directly and fully investigated before taking appropriate action. ULHT also said it invites her to get back in touch with any questions.

The Trust has a zero-tolerance approach to bullying and encourages staff to report concerns. A full review showed no evidence to suggest patients are at increased risk of harm during the night.

Zero-tolerance approach to bullying

Chief Executive at ULHT Jan Sobieraj said: “We take any concerns about bullying or harassment of our staff very seriously.

“We have a zero-tolerance approach to bullying at the Trust and encourage staff to report any concerns that they have so that we can investigate.

“We did contact Jayne Greig directly following her initial correspondence, have fully investigated and have taken appropriate action as we take her concerns very seriously. We invite her to get back in touch if she has any further questions.

“We are fully aware of the concerns around hospital night services and have recently completed a full review which showed there is no evidence to suggest patients are at an increased risk of harm during the night.

“We are however, continually working to improve the safety of our patients across the Trust wherever possible. We have processes in place for staff to report any incidents of harm, day or night, which are then fully investigated.”

Too frightened to speak out

Union leaders say staff are still reluctant to speak out.

Steve Syson at Unite told the BBC: “I think we’ve got a workforce that are working in silence. They are frightened to say how things are.

“When I took over from the previous officer, the first thing I walked into were grievances from staff that were 18 months old.”

Former Chair at ULHT David Bowles said fundamental issues within the NHS have not been resolved, saying: “We have some brilliant staff working under significant pressure trying to do their best, but in a management culture and a financial system which simply does not support them and frankly does not support patients either.

He added: “The evidence up and down the country is that the NHS continues to have serious problems of listening to its staff and putting patient safety at the absolute forefront of everything that it does.”

If you’re a current or former member of staff in the NHS and wish to speak to a reporter about your experience, you can email [email protected] or call 01522 837218