Dudley hospital staff say careers have been damaged by speaking out over patient care

Dudley hospital staff say careers have been damaged by speaking out over patient care

A security boss and former health assistant at a Black Country hospital claim their careers have been damaged after speaking up about patient care.

But their allegations have been strongly denied by the hospital's chief executive.

David Ore has been placed on special leave from his position overseeing the security team at Russells Hall Hospital ahead of an employment tribunal case in which he alleges the illegal restraint of patients at the hospital.

The tribunal and the 58-year-old's position as security officer led to a 'potential conflict of interests', say the Dudley hospital. He says he was then told his role was affected under restructuring plans.

Mr Ore, whose allegations include being given orders to restrain patients who want to leave, said: "I've been forced out because of concerns I had over the restraint of patients.

"What they don't want to hear, they shut out," he claimed.

But the claims have been refuted by hospital chief executive Paula Clark.

She said Mr Ore's concerns had been listened to three years ago when meetings on restraint were held and he led the redrafting of the trust's restrain policy.

Ms Clark said that claims his career at the hospital was over were untrue, adding it was the trust's intention to avoid compulsory redundancy and details for two other vacancies were being sent to him following his request.

"It is simply not true to say we ignore concerns raised by our staff," she said.

"We actively encourage our staff to raise issues either directly with their manager or by using the whistle blowing policy."

Mr Ore's claims come in the same week former agency health assistant Kate Clarke alleged work for her at the hospital dried up because she raised concerns over the standard of care.

The 56-year-old from Brierley Hill had worked at the hospital for 13 years, earning £24,000 a year.

But she claims she was no longer wanted after whistleblowing on concerns over other agency staff.

She alleged some were so tired they were sleeping on their shift, while others were wearing fleeces, which went against the hospital trust's bare below the elbows infection control policy.

Within months she said she was no longer wanted – and later told it was due to several complaints made about her from several wards, while an investigation was also being carried out on her whistle blowing claims.

Following the outcome of the investigation, the hospital made six changes including a reduction in reliance on agency staff and a more rigorous check system on employing the workers.

But despite being offered a chance to reapply for her job, Miss Clarke did not go for it. Today she is working in a fast-food restaurant. She has met NHS Chief Executive David Nicholson and says she wants her job back.

"If you have kids to feed or a mortgage, you can't afford to whistle blow because things can become very difficult at work," the mother-of-three said.

Chief executive Ms Clark said:"We did a huge amount of work three years ago with Kate.

"Yes, I think anyone who has got concerns should blow the whistle.

"With Kate we did investigate and offered her to come back, she told us at the time she got another job.

"We stopped using her because she got another job. We asked her to come in and talk about accusations other staff made, but she didn't," she added.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has written to all NHS trusts to remind them of their responsibility to protect and listen to whistleblowers.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "This Government has been absolutely clear that NHS staff who have the courage and integrity to speak out in the interests of patient safety must be protected and listened to.

"We are taking action and have funded a national helpline for whistle blowers, strengthened the NHS Constitution and provided stronger protections for whistle blowers in NHS staff contracts. "

Paula Clark, chief executive at The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust

The boss of Russells Hall Hospital said staff who whistle blow are encouraged to do so and their issues are properly investigated.

Paula Clark, chief executive at The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, today responded to claims by a security officer and ex-health worker that the hospital shunned people who spoke out.

She said the hospital trust had a whistle blowing policy offering a 'safe place' for people to raise concerns – and she encouraged staff to do so.

Asked if people who did would be blacklisted, she said: "They absolutely won't. I have got examples where people have been whistle blowers and they are happy working in the organisation. They have raised issues which we have looked into and dealt with. We have moved staff as a result , we have trained staff and we have run investigations."

She added: "I talk to staff, I say 'if they see anything, hear anything please don't walk away do something about it'.

"It is a difficult thing to do, but the right thing to do."

She said the hospital supported staff by being part of the National Speak Out Safely campaign. The hospital has had a whistle blowing policy since 2007.

She said: "There are 4,500 people out there with eyes and ears on what is going on and a million patient contacts a year so those are the places where I find out what is going on, meeting with staff and listening to them, and patients themselves."

The assurance comes ahead of an inspection by the Care Quality Commission this week. The hospital was ranked 'low-risk' by the commission ahead of the visit.

There will be two patient meetings, interviews with bosses, discussions with focus groups and an unannounced inspection done within two weeks of the initial two-day visit.

It will come almost eight months after a report by NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh uncovered staff shortages and a failing complaints system at the hospital trust.

Ms Clark said 25 new nurses had been recruited from Spain and Portugal since then, with another 15 arriving in May from Romania.

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