London: Britain’s first female Sikh MP has written to the UK government calling for an independent inquiry into a state-funded National Health Service (NHS) hospital trust in Birmingham following the suicide of an Indian-origin junior doctor and several reports of bullying she has received from the staff.
Preet Kaur Gill, who is the member of Parliament for Birmingham Edgbaston where the hospital trust is based, on Wednesday published her letter to UK Health Secretary Steve Barclay on Twitter, which calls for an inquiry into the culture at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB).
She referenced the suicide of 35-year-old Dr Vaishnavi Kumar who worked at Birmingham Queen Elizabeth Hospital and whose inquest last month heard how she felt “belittled” at work and would come home and cry.
“In the wake of the inquest following the heart-breaking suicide of Dr Vaishnavi Kumar, where bullying and condescension at work was cited as a contributing factor in her death, I am absolutely determined that this must be a turning point for the Trust,” reads Gill’s letter dated December 14.
“I have been inundated by messages from UHB staff, past and present, who have contacted me to share their experience of what has been repeatedly described as a toxic culture that has had an alarming impact on staff and patient care. Staff have been bullied and demeaned for raising concerns about policies and practices that they believe have compromised patient care, and in some cases even led to deaths,” it notes.
The senior Opposition Labour Party MP and shadow secretary of state for international development said many of the staff who have been in contact with her have described a “put up or shut up” culture at the NHS hospitals trust.
An investigation by BBC’s Newsnight’ programme earlier this month found that doctors at the Trust were “punished” for raising safety concerns.
The Birmingham and Solihull Integrated Care Board (ICB) has since announced a three-part review of the culture at UHB, with the first report expected next month.
However, Gill is calling for matters to go further with an independent inquiry in order to give confidence to whistleblowers who would want to feel safe to come forward with their evidence.
The UHB is one of the UK’s big NHS trusts, which manages a number of hospitals in the area.
“We welcome the support that is being put in place and we look forward to working positively and constructively with our NHS colleagues,” a UHB statement said.
“This will build upon the work already under way across UHB to understand the issues that have been highlighted. It is very clear that there is a strength of feeling in a number of areas and we are committed to addressing these. Our focus now is to continue to provide high standards of care, while supporting all colleagues, as we head into a particularly challenging winter period,” it added.