A “TOXIC culture” of infighting among a team of top consultants at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary has been branded “shocking” by a patients’ champion.
A leaked report revealed the hospital’s vascular unit – which looked after 3000 patients last year – had seen a breakdown in relationships, with clinicians actively looking for errors in each other’s work. It said the situation was a “recipe for serious patient safety issues”.
Jean Turner, of the Scotland Patients Association, said: “This is dreadful. It’s shocking.”
Dr Turner said clinicians should remember what they were there for. She said: “They are there purely and simply to do their best for their patients. They are duty bound to get on with each other and work as a team.
“It’s always dangerous if people are letting their egos get in the way. It’s the patient who suffers when things aren’t working smoothly.”
The vascular unit, which has 50 beds and treats patients with life-threatening bulges in their main arteries as well as other diseases of the veins and arteries, is made up of seven surgeons, six radiologists and seven anaesthetists.
The leaked report said there had been a breakdown in relationships, with management seen as favouring one surgeon and a “gang culture” perceived among other consultants.
It said: “The care delivered by this unit appears to be more based on surgeons’ individual careers and their dysfunctional relationships rather than on safe, patient-centred delivery.”
Questions were also raised about the way junior doctors are being trained in the unit, with allegations of bullying and concern about the experiences they are getting.
Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack said: “This report is deeply concerning. Patient safety has to be the top priority for all staff in the NHS and a culture of bullying and intimidation can only undermine that.
“NHS Lothian recognised there was a problem by ordering this report and I welcome the fact the board is now taking action to address the problems identified in this unit.”
Scottish Lib Dem health spokesman Jim Hume said: “These are disturbing findings of a culture which NHS Lothian must nip in the bud. The reported struggles between staff have no place in any workplace, let alone one which is focussed on saving the lives of patients.
“I am pleased that NHS Lothian has accepted the report’s findings and is progressing urgently on the recommendations.”
NHS Lothian would not say whether any disciplinary action had been taken against any of the consultants.
A spokeswoman said: “We do not discuss individual members of staff.”