A whistleblower’s allegations over the “manipulation” of waiting times within Ninewells Hospital’s Accident and Emergency must be taken seriously and fully investigated, a leading patient representative has said.
The medic said surgeons are forbidden from seeing patients admitted to accident and emergency until they had been moved to a surgical department, thereby keeping figures for A&E waiting times down.
Dr Jean Turner, a patron of the Scottish Patients’ Association, argued that if an anonymous doctor had been brave enough to speak out, then his concerns, whether true or otherwise, must be taken seriously so patient confidence could be upheld.
The patients’ advocate said it wasn’t enough for NHS to dismiss any fears and simply state everything was very safe.
Dr Turner said the organisation needed to listen to the concerns and address them directly.
She said: “You ignore someone like that at your peril. You have to deal with it. Is their perception correct or incorrect?
“When you run an important organisation like the NHS, you have to deal with perception and find out how true it is.
“I hope they don’t just rubbish the person and make it difficult for them. They need to take this on in a non-judgemental way so that patients feel safe.”
Dr Turner said whistleblowers put their careers on the line to publicly voice concerns about what they saw in the work place. She acknowledged that she did not know if the concerns were well-founded or misplaced, but she said there was a need for clarity.
She said: “They need to look into it and see what is really happening.
“I would think that a surgical team would like to see a patient as soon as possible to see what they need to do in order to move on with the patient.
“They would want to get things done as quickly and as safely as possible and I would like to think that there would be team work within A&E.”
Turning to targets for waiting times, Dr Turner was disparaging of any obsession with figures.
She said: “Targets are misleading. People focus on the targets when they must focus on patient need and in some cases patient safety.
“There is no reason to jump to conclusions…If concerns of this nature reach the public domain as they have done, in fairness to the public who are the potential patients they have to take them seriously and not brush them aside.”
NHS Tayside has said that patient safety remains its “overriding priority.”
A spokeswoman said senior clinicians see patients as soon as possible, and senior clinicians from other specialities are encouraged to attend cases where their expertise may be beneficial.