Father of doctor who took her own life after bullying at Birmingham hospitals disagrees with review

  • Dr Ravi Kumar says he believes the Trust is not a safe place

The father of a doctor who took her own life after experiencing bullying at the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust wants lessons to be learnt after a review into Trust was released today.

Dr Vaishnavi Kumar from Leicester took her own life last June, aged 35.

Her father, Dr Ravi Kumar, says in a note which she left behind she blamed her workplace - the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

'Disturbing' reports of bullying, a 'toxic atmosphere' and coercive leadership are some of the concerns highlighted by the review into patient safety released today.

In an interview with ITV News Central, Dr Ravi Kumar said: "I am really saddened by the reluctance. There are only a few cosmetic changes that have been done at the top.

Dr Vaishnavi Kumar from Leicester took her own life last June, aged 35. Credit: ITV News Central

"But the real majority of the people are still there from the past who are into this kind of culture. So I don't see this making any kind of difference."

He added that he thinks junior doctors should no longer be sent to work at the Trust, until it is deemed "safe to be there".

"They are the people who are really suffering there, because if they are posted there, they are forced to work there," he said.

"It is the best thing to do is to safeguard the junior doctors take them out of that place.

"That is what is anybody would do, if your house was not safe you would try to make changes before you move in, it's the same thing."

Dr Ravi Kumar added that he thinks the sickness figures for junior doctors at the Trust are also concerning.

He said: "That is very serious issue that needs to be looked into very seriously. Three times more than the national average the employees are sick.

"Shows how bad it is, why would anybody call in sick unless they are really suffering and that means there is something very seriously wrong, and that needs to be really addressed.

"Looking at the comments made by the panel, it looks like they are not really in the mood to learn from things because they don't want to acknowledge that there was anything wrong."

The review says its overall view is that the Trust is a "safe place to receive care, but any continuance of a culture that is corrosively affecting morale and in particular threatens long term staff recruitment and retention will put at risk the care of patients across the organisation - particularly in the current nationwide NHS staffing crisis".

In response to Dr Vaishnavi's death, the UHB has previously said: "Dr Vaishnavi Kumar was a much loved and respected doctor who was popular with colleagues and patients alike.  

"Her unexpected death was a tragedy, and our heartfelt condolences remain with Vaishnavi’s family."

Her father, Dr Ravi Kumar, says in a note which she left behind she blamed her workplace - the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Credit: ITV News Central

Jonathan Brotherton, Chief Executive at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Patients can continue to be confident that the care and treatment provided at our hospitals is safe.

"We are pleased that Prof Bewick's overall view 'is that the Trust is a safe place to receive care'.

"We fully accept his recommendations and welcome the additional assurance that has been asked for through further independent oversight.

"There are a number of significant concerns that we need to, and have started to, address; we will continue to learn from the past, as we move forward.

"We want to develop a positive, inclusive work environment where people want to come to work, in a place that they are proud to work in, to do their very best for our patients.

"While we will not be able to fix things as quickly as I would like, we do need to do it as quickly as possible, for the benefit of patients and staff; I am committed to ensuring this happens.

"We must now focus on continuing to provide the best possible patient care, building a values-led culture and supporting our incredible colleagues."

Professor Mike Bewick, Lead Reviewer, said: "Our rapid review has found that services at University Hospitals Birmingham are safe and patients should be confident when using them.

"We have, however, confirmed some, but not all, of the concerns made on the Newsnight programme in December of last year.

"In response to their concerns and those raised by Healthwatch, Preet Gill and many other individuals who have come forward, we have made several recommendations for further investigation and action.

"We have been disturbed by the consistent reporting of a bullying culture at the Trust and look forward to the next phase of the review where staff and patients will have the opportunity to speak freely and confidentially about their concerns.

"I know that Dame Yve Buckland, the Interim Chair at UHB, is already addressing these concerns and I thank her for her support during our review."

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