A PARAMEDIC who raised safety concerns about the standard of care in A&E departments has been banned from Worcestershire’s hospitals.
Stuart Gardner singled out the Worcestershire Royal Hospital in a television interview, claiming patients were being treated in corridors instead of in A&E.
The West Midlands Ambulance worker said staff were fitting ECG pads, stitching and inserting cannulas in the halls of the site and it became so common the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust had markings on the wall to identify who patients were.
Following the airing of the interview he has now been banned from the Royal as well as the Alexandra Hospital because of the upset they claimed he had caused to the department’s staff.
Mr Gardner said he had warned Stewart Messer, the Trust’s chief operating officer, of his intention to raise his concerns through whistle blowing and was told to ‘go ahead and do it’.
There were then e-mail exchanges with West Midlands Ambulance Trust in which Mr Messer is alleged to have warned action would be taken if his comments were critical of management or emergency department staff and Mr Gardner would not be welcome on their sites.
UNISON are now considering legal action over the decision after raising concerns lessons have not been learned from the Stafford Hospital Inquiry regarding whistle blowers.
Ravi Subramanian, UNISON’s West Midlands Regional Secretary, said rather than dealing with the problems facing A&E departments the Trust had chosen to personally attack one of their members.
“Our rep Mr Gardner is clearly acting in the public interest in whistle blowing about serious concerns about A&E. The response from the Trust’s Chief Operating Officer, Mr Messer is nothing short of an utter disgrace,” he said.
“By banning Mr Gardner from the Trust premises Mr Messer is putting patients’ lives at risk.
“What happens if Mr Gardner is on a 999 call in the area and the best place to take patient is to Worcestershire Royal Hospital.
“Is the chief operating officer saying that Mr Gardner will be turned away, and will have to take the patient to a hospital further away, thus endangering patient safety?
“The public knows that front-line NHS workers are working flat out to deal excess workload in A&E.
“But how can the people of Worcester have any faith in the management of the hospital when in Mr Messer, we have a Chief Operating Officer who has prioritised victimising a UNISON whistleblower over spending his time addressing the real and serious issues in A&E.”
Mr Messer said their conversations with Mr Gardner and his representatives were related to the personal upset he had caused A&E staff. He said he hoped Mr Gardner and UNISON would work with them to reach an amicable conclusion to the situation.
A spokeswoman from the Trust said whistleblowing was positively encouraged and promoted within their organisation and they took any concerns about quality of care very seriously from anyone who wished to raise them.
She added: “We also take our legal Duty of Candour very seriously and, where we are aware of any safety or quality issues, we are committed to openly and honestly discussing these with patients and families.
“The media as a whole are aware of the pressures on A&E services across not just Worcestershire, but the country as a whole, and we have been pleased to work our local media outlets on several occasions in the recent weeks and months, to actively highlight these.
“Our A&E staff are proud to have a very positive working relationship with the paramedics who visit our sites, and as a Trust we work in very close partnership with West Midlands Ambulance Service. It is critical to preserve relationships with the ambulance service – especially at this crucial time – in order to ensure the safety of patients in our care.
“In response to this isolated incident, we have suggested that it would be appropriate for Mr Gardner to address the upset he has caused amongst A&E staff who are working tirelessly under what has been – and continues to be – extreme pressure.
“We hope that Mr Gardner and his Unison colleagues will work with us on this to reach an amicable outcome.
“Our main focus at this time, along with our health and social care partners across the county, remains on providing safe care at what is an extremely busy time for A&E services.”
Pershore residents could face long journeys to Redditch’s Alexandra Hospital. (s)