NHS Borders patients being put at risk, whistleblower claims

Poor standards of clinical practice at NHS Borders are putting vulnerable adults and children at risk, a senior staff member has claimed.

Dawn Saunders, head of audiology at the health board, said she and colleagues have raised numerous concerns over the last 18 months “to no avail”.

Ms Saunders, who is currently suspended from her post, alleges a case of negligence when “a patient came to harm through having his ear drum perforated as the direct result of poor clinical practice.”

In response, NHS Borders said it was confident its clinicians were competent and patients were not at risk.

The claims were made in letter to the Herald newspaper, which states: “The culture within NHS Borders is accepting of extremely poor standards of clinical practice that put vulnerable adults and children at risk every day.”

The letter from Ms Saunders and senior audiologists Beverley Herne and Sara Doggett said: “Despite the organisation having accepted that there is an issue it has to date failed to address any of the matters identified within our complaints or implement any measures to reduce the risk to patients.”

They said whistleblowers were subject to “continuous victimisation and bullying by senior management in an attempt to silence concerns and furthermore exit such employees from the organisation”.

NHS Borders confirmed anonymous whistleblowing concerns had been raised about patient safety in the audiology department.

Nicky Berry, director of nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals, and director of acute services at the board, said: “It is important that we honour the request for anonymity from the whistleblowers as reassurance to all of our staff that it is safe and acceptable to speak up in the event that they wish to raise concerns.

“We can confirm that in this case we immediately took external expert advice from senior audiologists from another health board who raised no immediate patient safety concerns.

“They did however highlight some areas where practice could be improved and that is moving forward.

“An investigation into the concerns was instigated promptly, which has been completed with the recommendations agreed with the whistleblowers.”

Ms Berry added: “We are not putting our patients at risk.

“The external advice from another health board about the clinical competency of our staff has been given and we have had confirmation that our audiology staff are competent clinicians capable of the work assigned to them.

“Any ongoing matters that are being dealt with through our internal employment policies are confidential between the employer and employee.

“However, we would say that in all cases suspension is a neutral act, not a disciplinary action, and alternatives are always considered.”

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