'Broken' NHS staff accuse Gloucestershire hospitals of 'failing' patients

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NHS staff working in Gloucestershire say they would be "really worried" to have treatment in the hospitals they work at, one whistleblower has claimed.

More than two dozen hospital workers have signed a letter hitting out at "unsustainable" working conditions and poor patient safety at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

A spokesperson for the trust has said they are facing "unprecedented times" and are doing everything they can to help colleagues and patients.

In the letter - which they say is a "vote of no confidence" in the trust's management - they list what they describe as multiple systemic failures happening in the A&E departments at Gloucestershire Royal and Cheltenham General hospitals.

One whistleblower who works for the trust - whose identity is being protected - told ITV News she is at "breaking point". She said she feels "embarrassed" and "ashamed" by the lack of patient safety.

She spoke of how her colleagues finish shifts in floods of tears, claiming the NHS Trust is “failing the community it serves”. 

"Some managers have told staff to stop reporting patient safety issues"

“I’m just ashamed and embarrassed by what is considered acceptable or normal as far as the general level of care and patient safety goes," she told ITV News West Country.

“Many of my colleagues have said they would be really worried if they needed treatment or care from the trust they actually work for, I’ve said it myself.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to comfort a colleague who has finished the shift in floods of tears, whether out of frustration at the way things are being organised, or just out of sadness because they know a patient didn’t get the treatment or the level of care they really needed. Personally, I'm at breaking point”, she said. 

Cheltenham General Hospital Credit: ITV West Country

She said staff are "lucky" if they get time to go to the toilet or grab a drink during a 12-hour shift.

“People rarely leave on time and if it wasn’t for the remaining staff pulling extra shifts and plugging the gaping holes on the rota, the department simply wouldn’t function at all.”

She claimed one of the reasons staff have decided to take a stand is because some of them have been told not to report the issues.

"Some managers have told staff to stop reporting patient safety issues. They’ve been told it isn’t helpful," she said.

She added: "If the letter is not a vote of no confidence in the trust's senior management, then I don't know what is!"

The letter - signed by 27 staff members - states “the duty of care owed to patients is being severely compromised by systemic failures”. It also says medical and nursing staff shortages are a “major concern”. 

The letter says an "increasing number of critical failures" and "near misses" are indicative of a "broken system".

"Staff are concerned about the competence of the trust's managers and the trust's commitment to maintaining minimum standards of care," it adds.

The letter concludes: "Unless the Senior Management culture of failing to listen changes, patient care will suffer and and staff will continue to leave this failing service".

In response Professor Steve Hams, the Director of Quality and Chief Nurse at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust told ITV News: "I recognise all of the concerns raised by our colleagues in the letter and we are facing the most unprecedented time around urgent and emergency care.

"It has been incredibly difficult for all of our colleagues and we're working together across Gloucestershire in terms of health and social care to try and put some of those things right."