Culture of fear still prevails at Birmingham NHS Trust – Bewick

  • By Sophie Madden and David Grossman
  • bbc news


Professor Mike Bewick said the changes needed to be made quickly

A culture of fear still prevails in one of England’s biggest hospitals, says the author of a damning review of its culture.

Professor Mike Bewick, who led the report team, told the BBC it was a “pretty sorry story”.

“It’s not easy to say these things when you’ve been involved in the health service for 43 years, but I’ve heard some disturbing stories,” he said.

He said “toxic culture was a commonly used term” for people interviewed while working on the report.

The trust is responsible for Queen Elizabeth (QE), Heartlands, Good Hope and Solihull hospitals.

image source, fake images


Professor Bewick says the trust still provides safe care

The report’s author said there were staff at all four sites who were “delivering their best work.”

“I’m afraid this culture of fear is still prevalent and people are still reluctant to come forward,” he said.

“We have not found any evidence that trust is in disarray in terms of clinical safety.

“But this kind of corrosive effect of an environment where people aren’t free to speak, or don’t feel free to speak… that’s supported by other external evidence.

“This corrosive effect will have an effect on patient safety if things are not reversed quickly.”

Responding to a question from Newsnight about whether patients can trust the hospital’s service, he said: “If it were my family, I’d take them to Birmingham.”

“There are a lot of issues, and there are some areas that we’ve indicated need change quite quickly and further investigation. But the overall function and ability of that (trust) to provide world-class care is very good.”


Junior doctor Vaish Kumar left a note blaming his suicide on QE Hospital, where he worked.

He cited staff anger that senior leadership did not attend his funeral.

Jonathan Brotherton, chief executive of the trust who took over three months ago, told the BBC that he accepted the report’s findings, adding that he had already begun to address the problems.

image source, fake images


The Bewick report is the first of three reviews launched at the UHB trust, which runs the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

“The toxic effect of a perception of bullying, harassment and a lack of freedom to speak can be as harmful as its reality, and I sincerely hope that the trust’s current leadership can work urgently to resolve these issues.” he said.

“Patients will not be safe in any organization unless staff feel they will be supported by raising genuine concerns and not singled out for doing so.”

Professor Bewick’s report, which marks the first phase of his investigation, is one of three major reviews of the trust, commissioned following a series of reports by Newsnight and BBC West Midlands in which current and former staff raised concerns.

The second and third revisions, covering governance and culture in the trust, are expected to be published in June.


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