DAUK in The Guardian on West Suffolk: without moving to just culture in the NHS where staff can speak open and honestly, patients will continue to come to harm

An under-fire hospital came under fresh pressure on Friday after it emerged that a second family received a whistleblower tipoff about serious failings in the care of a patient who died, the Guardian can reveal. West Suffolk hospital (WSH), used by Matt Hancock’s constituents, is already facing criticism over its unprecedented demand for doctors to provide fingerprint samples in an attempt to track down an anonymous letter writer who alerted widower Jon Warby to surgical mistakes made before his wife died in August 2018.

It has emerged that in a new case, relatives of retired lorry driver Horace Nunn were not told of suspected mistakes in his care until two months after an injury in hospital that contributed to his death in July 2016. They only learned of a problem when a staff member tipped them off that the hospital was planning to investigate delays in the diagnosis of a neurological problem, known as an epidural haematoma, in March.

The new tipoff raises further questions about patient safety standards at the Bury St Edmunds hospital, and a possible breach of the strict NHS-wide “duty of candour” obligation to tell patients and relatives about damaging lapses in care. Last month the Guardian revealed Hancock repeatedly failed to respond to concerns the hospital was bullying and intimidating senior staff to prevent them raising patient safety issues.

Last week, the Guardian further disclosed the trust had spent more than £2,500 on handwriting and fingerprint experts in its hunt for the whistleblower in the Warby case.

Dr Rinesh Parmar, chair of the Doctors’ Association UK, said: “We are incredibly concerned that a second whistleblower has had to raise concerns directly with a family regarding possible harm at West Suffolk. “This pattern speaks of a toxic culture where clinicians feel unable to speak up when things go wrong for fear of retribution. Given recent reports of West Suffolk’s ruthless response to hunt down anonymous whistleblowers, these fears appear to be well founded.”

Excerpt from The Guardian, read the full article here: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/jan/24/west-suffolk-hospital-faces-fresh-questions-over-whistleblower-tipoffs