Hospital staff's worried letter to Prime Minister

Angry hospital staff have written to the Prime Minister with their concern about West Herts Hospitals Trust.

Thursday, 8th September 2016, 12:16 pm
Updated Monday, 12th September 2016, 5:46 pm
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The letter, which has been seen by the Gazette, lays out a range of concerns, including worries about leadership, staff morale, and oversight.

While the letter is unsigned, it follows and refers to the trust being placed into special measures 12 months ago.

This came when the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which oversees hospitals and other health providers across the UK, rated the trust as ‘Inadequate’.

The letter says: “We were devastated last year after the CQC report, we worked so hard to make the care of the patients good and safe but we are let down so much by the management.

“After special measures was started we were blamed for letting the hospital get into such a state and that we had to fix it.

“We never had any worries about working hard to get it right but expected support from the management and leaders to get it right. But they are the ones who got us into such a state in the first place.”

West Herts Trust runs the hospitals in Hemel Hempstead, Watford and St Albans.

The letter adds: “The CQC are coming back in September and we are so worried about what will happen to our hospital next and the affects it will have on us and our families and friends.

“Whenever there are official visits or inspections to the hospital they are so carefully prepared and scripted and we are told what we can and can’t say.

“We are expected not to have certain members of staff on duty in case they say the wrong thing, as they might not give the right answer to any questions.”

Both Watford General and St Albans Hospitals were graded as Inadequate by the CQC, while Hemel Hempstead Hospital was given a ‘Requires Improvement’ rating.

The main points of concern raised in the report related to high stress levels among staff, with a significant dependency on agency staff as well as insufficient numbers to provide adequate care.

Edie Glatter, of the Dacorum Hospital Action Group (DHAG), offered support to a number of the concerns.

She said: “This reflects concerns that staff have had for a long time.

“For example, the letter talks about bullying, and for many years reports on the trust has put it in the worst 20 per cent. I don’t understand why nothing seems to change on that – staff change at the top and the bottom, but the culture seems to stay the same.

“You want a happy, productive workforce – particularly at a hospital.”

Katie Fisher, hospital chief executive, said that the best response to the letter would be delivering improvements in the next CQC inspection.

She said: “We are saddened that an anonymous letter containing such serious allegations has been shared with the media and that those allegations have not been raised in the usual routes within the trust.

“We have whistleblowing policies and a number of ways to support staff who wish to raise serious matters, including anonymously.

“The letter states that the staff have been worried about the current CQC inspection. I am aware that some colleagues found the inspection in 2015 difficult. We have worked hard to ensure that staff are confident in welcoming the inspectors and are as relaxed as possible about their visit.

“We have a good story to tell in terms of the improvements made since the last inspection. I was sorry to hear that the writer felt that the board let the organisation down by failing to stop the trust falling into special measures.

“Our best response to that is the result that follows the current inspection.”