National Whistleblower Day

The National Health Service Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHS GGC) health board is set to review whistleblowing procedures, reports the Scottish news outlet The Herald.

The review comes on the heels of an independent report published this week about harmful conditions at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) that led to “a series of infection outbreaks” and the deaths of four patients. An investigation to determine whether the outbreaks were related to “widespread water contamination and substandard ventilation “found ‘no clear evidence’ of a link to deaths” but said that “flaw in the building’s design had increased the risk to cancer patients.”

The report also found whistleblowers raised these issues years ago, and QEUH failed to act. The whistleblowers suffered retaliation, which the Health Board fears “could damage the confidence of staff reporting concerns.”

For example, QEUH whistleblower, Dr. Christine Peters, the clinical lead of microbiology at QEUH, tried to inquire about infection control measures as early as 2014. A year before the hospital opened its doors in 2015.“When I started in 2014, I had raised some issues in writing and I was phoned by a more senior person to say to me — you’re new to Glasgow but here we don’t put things in writing because of inquiries and things,” Peters said. She also asked about “ventilation strategy” and requested to see water risk assessments but was only able to see the reports “for the first analysis of the water in the hospital when documents were leaked to the press last year.”

Susanne Lee, another QEUH employee, had similar concerns about the hospital before its opening in 2015 and said she would have advised that the hospital push its July 2015 opening date. “There’s all sorts of things, problems in here with management of water temperatures…these are your basic control measures that are not actually working,” Lee said.

Peters and Lee’s stories have thus sparked a review ordered by NHS GGC of whistleblowing procedures. The inquiry will examine how QEUH handles issues raised by whistleblowers and what processes occur after staff discloses a concern.Charles Vincent, a “whistleblowing champion,” will helm the review, which is “expected to take six to nine months.”

The British Medical Association (BMA) supports of the review: “Legitimate concerns have been raised at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. It is vital when this happens that staff have faith in the system that operates, and that this system is entirely focused on ensuring that healthcare is being delivered safely and in a safe setting,” said Dr. Lewis Morrison, the chairman of BMA’s Scottish council.

Read: Queen Elizabeth University Hospital: Design errors raised infection risk