This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

pul jul aug2020 cover 80x101px
Read the latest issue online

Independents' Day

GP trainee claims he was reprimanded after highlighting A&E safety concerns

A GP trainee currently working in A&E has been caught up in a row over doctors' duty to speak up when concerned about patient safety.

Dr Adrian Harrop has taken to Twitter since the start of the month to give a day-by-day account of how winter pressures is affecting patient care at the emergency department of Scarborough Hospital.

Dr Harrop also spoke to BBC News and the Observer, but says he was subsequently told off by colleagues for speaking to the media without referring to the hospital trust's press office.

However, Scarborough Hospital disputes these claims, saying 'no member of staff would ever be threatened with any form of disciplinary action' for raising concerns, adding they are fully supportive of such actions.

According to Dr Harrop, the A&E department should have declared a major incident due to the long waits patients were facing, and the inability of A&E staff to complete the handover of patients from paramedic teams.

But he claims a culture of not wanting to be seen by NHS England to be failing stopped hospital managers from speaking up about the conditions.

Dr Harrop told Pulse: 'Every day, being an outspoken person, I would raise these concerns with the consultants and to the senior nurse on the shop floor.'

But he claimed that they were 'unwilling to escalate things to their seniors because they feel that once they have escalated it, they are admitting failure'.

He said: 'I think this is a major problem in the health service, among nursing staff and managerial teams... This is a very negative, counterproductive culture.'

Dr Harrop said that he was told by the consultant in his department, 'do not speak to the media again', or it could 'put us both into a very difficult position'.

He also referred to comments made by Mike Proctor, deputy chief executive at York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, to BBC News.

Speaking on the programme, Mr Proctor said the hospital did not need to declare a major incident because plans were in place to deal with the crisis, including the planned cancellation of non-urgent operations.

Regarding Dr Harrop's decision to tell the media about his patient safety concerns, Mr Proctor said: 'I think what we have advised, and what colleagues have advised, is to talk to our communications department before you do things like that.'

Further, when asked whether Dr Harrop would 'keep his job', Mr Proctor said he was 'sure he will'.

The trust to which Scarborough Hospital belongs claimed Dr Harrop had not raised concerns internally, and said he had not been threatened with any repercussions for speaking to the media.

A York Teaching Hospital NHS FT spokesperson said: 'Dr Harrop has made a number of claims on social media over the past few weeks, and it is difficult to respond to such claims when he has not raised his concerns in any other way with the organisation.

'No member of staff would ever be threatened with any form of disciplinary action for raising concerns about patients or colleagues, and we actively support staff in doing so.'

According to the spokesperson: 'The organisation’s press office exists to facilitate a relationship between the trust, its staff, and the media' but its 'role is not to prevent staff speaking directly to the media'.

The row comes as winter pressures forced NHS England to advise hospitals to cancel non-urgent elective care for the whole of January in a bid to free up staff to deal with emergencies.

MPs have urged the Government to stump up extra funding to restore services, however despite being forced to apologise to patients, ministers have said the NHS's winter plan is working.

Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya, BMA junior doctors committee chair, said: 'As hospitals face one of the toughest winters on record, with tens of thousands of operations postponed, patients waiting too long in the back of ambulances and stark warnings of people dying on trolleys in hospital corridors, doctors must feel confident that they can come forward when they see something that they think is putting safety at risk. Indeed, it is a doctor’s professional duty to raise such concerns, and to do so in the correct way.'

What is the process for raising patient safety concerns?

31 dr wijesuriya jeeves power50 2017 31

31 dr wijesuriya jeeves power50 2017 31

BMA's junior doctors committee chair Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya says: 'The GMC provides step-by-step guidance on the way to go about reporting safety issues; the first port of call should always be your manager or senior officer inside your organisation and there are number of avenues that can be explored – including speaking with the regulator itself.

'The BMA is on hand to offer support and advice through every step of the process.

'While doctors may fear repercussions as a result of raising concerns, those who do so are protected by law.

'Further, if junior doctors feel excessive hours, lack of breaks and inadequate support are putting patients in danger, it is imperative that they raise this effectively using the exception reporting process.'



Readers' comments (19)

  • Career closed for him in the UK and we all know it

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Council of Despair

    yup - the moral of the story is never whistle blow - you will not be supported.

    if you are going to whistle blow do it anonymously or leave first and preferbly emigrate then blow the whistle.

    no one and I mean no one will help you - what will happen is rather than the organisation looking at the problem they will view you as the problem and they will start looking for reasons to ruin your career. shame as he is young but it's a good lesson for him to learn that you have no friends in the NHS. Don't expect colleagues, the media, patient groups, any of the so-called watch dogs to help.

    it is confusing though because we are supposed to do the right thing but now-a-days doing the right thing is like putting a gun to your head.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Dude, you are playing with fire

    Congrats for making it onto Pulse. Send your mum a cutting.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • This comment has been moderated

  • Yep there's no whistle blowing to be done in NHS despite all of Hunt's weasel words about encouraging this...just look at the case of Dr Chris Day if you want evidence of what happens to people who raise concerns over patient safety.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • doctordog.

    Retire first, then the NHS testicles will become your property.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Just Your Average Joe

    Where the F*&7 are CQC in all this winter crisis?

    If they visit almost any hospital in the South East - it is like a war zone, and can't imagine a single hospital would pass inspections with patients lying on floors in corridors, with no access to beds, oxygen, call buzzers etc.

    Staffing levels down and operations cancelled causing huge negative feedback and distress for those involved.

    All because some DOH moron decided to close beds in the past, which roughly equate to the number of beds we are usually short now.

    Nurses down, no thanks to removal of the nursing bursary and pay freezes for NHS staff.

    So again I ask where the f&*7 is the CQC?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Government is failing at every level in providing good care to the patients.The irony is that they still boast that they are well prepared for the crisis.
    Also the difficult thing to understand is that public knows that this govt wants to privatise NHS and still votes for then.How Bizarre!!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Bizarre behaviour. It seems reasonable but then on reflection you see that here is a very junior dr , a junior employee, offering opinions and relating them to everyone via a very public medium. Perhaps he doesn’t understand what pressure is, and the pressure he was working under was quite reasonable. As I recall A+E always had its moments. Who knows. My advice to him is to wind it in a bit

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • @Gary: he dared, you don't. Grow some spine now and stand by your young courageous colleague.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • most of us here are anonymous for very good reasons.
    telling the truth unto NHS managers usually results in whatever harm is in their power.
    I would certainly let my consultant know about the problems.
    if he does not fix the problem then brave Doctors are right to go on social media

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 results per page20 results per page

Have your say