Hospital trust’s culture is sick

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DOCTORS and other members of the caring professions rightly rank among the most respected in society.

So it comes perhaps as an even greater surprise when their behaviour falls below expected standards – and even more so when it damages the care of people who should be their first priority.

The shocking catalogue of behaviour by some consultants working in women’s services at the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which has been detailed in an external review, is simply disgraceful.

A litany of complaints includes bullying, sexism, aggressive and incompetent behaviour on wards. Staff even started shifts late – and finished early.

Most shocking is the plight of some women suffering from cancer who were referred by their specialist for cancer treatment. Yet they only found out they had been referred for specialist cancer treatment after checking the trust’s website when doctors apparently refused to give them the diagnosis themselves.

It has been clear for many years that the Mid Yorkshire trust, which runs services for half a million people in Wakefield, Pontefract and Dewsbury, is beset by difficulties which are some of the most intractable of any within the NHS.

Severe financial instability is undoubtedly a root cause of many of its problems and these are only likely to worsen as NHS resources are squeezed and the trust battles to meet ruinously high payments on a private finance initiative deal for two new hospitals.

A major reconfiguration of clinical services next year, which is likely to prove highly controversial, may improve the situation, but it is clear that it is the working culture which is sick in some parts of the trust.

The report calls on managers to show courage in dealing with staff – and it must be only a tiny minority of individuals – who do not come up to expected standards. They have a right for grievances to be sorted out but not to work to their own rules.

At the same time, those who have maintained excellent standards and borne heavy workloads due to the behaviour of their colleagues should be applauded. The primary role of all NHS staff is to treat patients to the best of their abilities, and at all times. Nothing less is acceptable.