DAUK in BBC News: “West Suffolk Hospital: Directors due to step down after ‘witch-hunt'”

Two directors are due to step down at a hospital that asked staff for fingerprints and handwriting samples as it hunted a whistleblower.

An inquiry into West Suffolk Hospital’s handling of the affair is due to report imminently.

Nick Jenkins will leave his role as medical director, while chief operating officer Helen Beck is to retire.

The NHS trust that runs the hospital in Bury St Edmunds thanked both of them for their “dedication and leadership”.

In a letter to staff, seen by the BBC, West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust’s chief executive Dr Stephen Dunn made the announcement, but made no reference to the independent inquiry.

Trust management were accused of carrying out a “witch-hunt” after staff were asked for fingerprints and handwriting samples in an attempt to find the author of a letter that was sent to the husband of a deceased patient.

An inquest was told about a series of errors in the treatment of Susan Warby, who died five weeks after bowel surgery in August 2018.

The 57-year-old was given glucose instead of saline fluid through an arterial line in one operation, suffered a punctured lung during another and a week later contracted a fungal infection.

Two months later, her husband Jon received the anonymous letter that highlighted concerns about her treatment and suggested questions about the role of a particular doctor should be raised.

The hospital trust spent more than £2,000 in 2019 commissioning fingerprint and handwriting experts in an effort to identify the author. 

The Doctors’ Association described the trust’s actions as a “witch hunt” and said they highlighted a “toxic culture”.

The hospital, which serves constituents of Health Secretary Matt Hancock, later apologised to the staff involved.

Christine Outram MBE was commissioned by NHS Improvement to carry out an independent review into the events arising from the letter and the hospital’s handling of the affair. 

It was due to be completed in April 2020, but it has yet to be published.

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