‘Progress depends on the unreasonable man’

Professor David Oliver is a doctor that I have huge respect for. His views, as expressed in the BMJ, and thus in short form, generally accord with mine [this is an observation and not a statement about the merit of our opinions].

As an NHS doctor who has ‘spoken up’ I read this ‘BMJ Acute Perspective’ by Professor Oliver with both interest and with gratitude.

I worry (perhaps I am not alone in this worry) if I might be considered as either “reasonable” or “unreasonable”? However I have a greater need, and that is to be true to who I am.

Truth generally rests between words like “reasonable” and “unreasonable”. This is  territory that needs freedom.

 

freedom to speak

The Director General for NHS Scotland:

  Peter's experience of the Director General for NHS Scotland

 

The Clinical Director of Healthcare Improvement Scotland:

     Peter's experience of the Clinical Director of HIS

 

The Director of Health and Social Care Integration:

Peter's experience of Director of Health & Social Care Integration

 

In my determination to put patients first I have been treated poorly.

These highly paid officials seem to be beyond accountability:

[I have always openly acknowledged that my view is no more important than any other. I am always careful to be clear in what cannot be said with any certainty. I am fully aware of my weaknesses.  I absolutely refute any charge that I am “vexatious”. I do not hold grievances. What matters to me is truth and fairness. I have found that the same cannot always be said of those in genuine positions of power]:

 

It can take courage to care. To resist the threats to your career and the misnaming:

 

Such abuse of power is not new:

 

You are invited to join me for this protest:

 

Lifeboat NHS

A film about freedom to speak up in NHS Scotland based on an edit of the evidence session of the Health and Sport Committee, Scottish Parliament, held on 13th June 2017.

This is just an edit. A subjective view. Nothing more and nothing less.

Courage to care













 

I no longer feel safe

I have reluctantly decided that I am no longer going to write any posts about NHS Scotland on Hole Ousia. I will however still continue to discuss health and wellbeing in the context of the “two cultures”.

My reason is that I no longer feel safe to speak out individually as an employee of NHS Scotland.

I will continue to advocate for transparency and accountability.

I feel very lucky to be a doctor. The NHS is so important to me. I have so many wonderful colleagues and I never cease to learn from the Scottish folk that I try to help when in a time of need.

I will always try my best to put patients first. That is the way I am. I do not agree with those who suggest that such a determination might be considered as a sign of illness.

Dr Peter J. Gordon

The Friends of Liberty from omphalos on Vimeo.

It is very difficult to challenge a powerful organisation

This week  the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport welcomed a new report into management of frailty and delirium

cabinet secretary welcomes OPAC

This reminded me, that 6 months on, I do not recall having received an answer to this letter:

Shona-Robison-delirium

“This most unusual request”

In August 2013 I read an article published in the BMJ which was entitled Three quarters of guideline panellists have ties to the drug industry”.

Majority-of-Guideline-panel

I have petitioned the Scottish parliament for a Sunshine Act. My petition seeks a single, searchable register of payments made to healthcare workers and academics. My petition has now been considered 6 times by a parliamentary committee. The committee would appear to be coming to the view that such a register would need to have statutory underpinning (just as they have in France and the USA). However, before any decision is made by parliament, the Scottish Government have asked for wider public consultation.

Update, March 2016: 
The public consultation concluded, by majority, that it should be 
mandatory for all financial transactions to be publically declared.

Peter-Sunshine,-Jan-2015

The Scottish Government and the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport, have made comment “that apart from the petitioner” the issue of transparency has not been raised by other NHS healthcare professionals. This brings me to this blog-post which might explain why this has been the case.

we-can-find-no-record

In an entirely anonymised way I shall briefly present the narrative behind a senior healthcare professional who served as a key individual in a panel developing a national guideline. Unfortunately no records of financial interests for this guideline exist and so, as part of my research for a Sunshine Act, I wrote politely to this senior healthcare professional asking for the details of any financial conflicts of interest. I was grateful to receive responses but unfortunately found that they were uninformative and defensive. It was however clear from research publications that this individual had received payments from the pharmaceutical industry.

HDL-62

In Scotland, all NHS Chief Executives were written to by the Scottish Government in 2003 asking that they established registers of interests for all employees including GPs. However, across Scotland, for more than 12 years, this guidance has not been followed. In the hope that this senior healthcare worker had declared to his employers, I wrote to the Health Board involved. In doing so they breached my polite request for anonymity. I asked the Health Board if they could forward the evidence of this senior healthcare worker’s declaration to his employers, as expected in HDL 62 and also for GMC Annual Appraisal.

After many months, I received a reply from the NHS Board. This is the relevant section of the reply which confirms there are no entries for this senior healthcare worker who was involved in developing a national guideline which advises on prescribing.

One a

The NHS Board reply encouraged me to consider confidentiality of this senior healthcare worker but made no apology for my anonymity being broken.

The final paragraph of the NHS Board reply apologised for the time taken to look into this but asked me to “appreciate that this is a most unusual request”.

One b

The GMC does not consider it “unusual” to maintain transparency regarding financial conflicts of interest:

GMC on CoI

My experience for researching whether GMC guidance and extant NHS Scotland guidance on transparency have been followed has been most difficult. It has had negative consequences for me and I have felt as if I have been regarded as “unusual” to be concerned about transparency. Robert Francis in his two recent reviews relating to the NHS has talked of ‘a culture of fear’ where healthcare workers are fearful of the consequences of putting patients first. Perhaps then, this is why, other healthcare workers have not raised concerns about transparency of payments made by industry to colleagues.

Freedom to speak up

It would appear from this example that it is possible that authors of prescribing guidelines may have previously been paid by industry. As things stand there is reasonable chance, as a Scottish patient, that the medication you receive has been informed by such a process. And you will have no way of finding out if this is the case.

Update, September 2016:

SIGN 86, Management of patients with Dementia, has now been withdrawn, 
so is historical. 

I therefore feel that it is entirely reasonable to identify it.

sign-86-guideline-chair-dr-peter-connelly-guideline-now-withdrawn

sign-86-guideline-healthcare-improvement-scotland

 

“appropriate” and “correct” concerns in NHS Scotland

After sending an update of my petition for a Sunshine Act to the Chief Executive Officer of NHS Forth Valley I received this reply. Whilst I was employed by NHS Forth Valley I raised concerns that HDL 62, the Scottish Government Circular sent to all Chief Executives in NHS Scotland, was not being followed.

Jane-Grant,-NHS-Forth-Valle

Two aspects of this letter from the Chief Executive Officer for NHS Forth Valley are worth further consideration:

(1) Transparency:

When I was an employee of NHS Forth Valley I was formally written to by Dr Rhona Morrison, Associate Medical Director. In this letter from the Associate Medical Director, which was both unsigned and undated, I was described as “unprofessional” and “offensive” for raising concerns that NHS Forth Valley was not following extant Scottish Government guidance on transparency regarding declarations of interest.

This letter confirmed that I would be “invited” to  an “informal” meeting by the Associate Medical Director’s immediate peers.

My experience of this “informal” meeting was that my character, reputation and probity were robustly questioned by the Medical Director, Dr Peter Murdoch, and the General Manager, Mrs Kathy O’Neill. This meeting was not minuted. This meeting left me distressed.

A number of weeks after this meeting I resigned from NHS Forth Valley. On my resignation I had this  feedback from those who I had cared for and worked with

(2) Freedom to Speak Up:

The Chief Executive Officer reinforces in her letter the “importance of a culture of openness and candour”. However, Jane Grant, the Chief Executive Officer for NHS Forth Valley then goes on to give qualifications: that any concerns raised should be “appropriate” and “correct”.

Whistleblowing in NHS Scotland from omphalos on Vimeo.

To conclude: it appears to me that there are still significant barriers to raising concerns in NHS Scotland. If you click on the image below you can read the full review by Sir Robert Francis. I have selected one particular recommendation which I think will require a different mindset to that suggested in the letter from Jane Grant, Chief Executive Officer for NHS Forth Valley:

Freedom05002

Update: November 2016:
On the 22 March 2016 the following petition was lodged by 
Pete Gregson with the Scottish Parliament: PE01605: Whistleblowing 
in the NHS - a safer way to report mismanagement and bullying.

On the 24th November 2016 the Public Petitions Committee considered 
all the submissions requested as part of evidence gathering. 
This included a letter from the Chief Executive Officer for 
NHS Forth Valley. This letter was commented on in particular 
by Angus MacDonald, MSP:

pe1605-nhs-scotland-whistlblowing-jane-grant-nhs-forth-valley

Freedom to speak up

Freedom05I am very grateful to the Scottish Government for replying to me on behalf of Jamie Hepburn, MSP, Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health. Below you will find the Scottish Government reply and my response to it.

In NHS Scotland I have not found freedom to speak up.

David Berry, Scottish Government

Dear Peter
I refer to your email correspondence of 11 January to the Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health. I have been asked to respond to you.

Your main concerns in your email are about the ethics and relative risks and benefits of cognitive screening for older people, including those with dementia. I know that this is an on-going concern and note that you have previously raised this issue with Healthcare Improvement Scotland.

The implication of your email appears to be that you are concerned that there may be what is effectively a national programme of screening for people with cognitive impairment (including dementia) in acute, and that older people do not have the benefit of information or the option to opt out of such screening. I hope I can reassure you that no national programme of that kind has been initiated. HIS have for some time had a focus on improving service response on delirium and I understand you have information on that from HIS.

As you may know, we have a three year strategy to improve dementia care in hospitals, including a 10 point action plan to drive up standards of care. Our approach includes development of clear standards, ensuring strong senior and clinical leadership, getting right staff in the right place and giving healthcare staff the support and training they need to provide safe, effective and person centred care to every patient, every time. Appropriate identification and assessment of dementia is a part of this overall approach. This work is supported by the networks of Dementia Nurse Consultants and Dementia Champions.

The Focus on Dementia in Acute improvement programme, launched in July 2014, has a specific focus on leadership, workforce development, working as equal partners with families and minimising and responding to stress and distress. The aim is to improve the experience, safety and coordination of people with dementia, their families/carers and staff.  Progress to date includes the identification of executive and operational leads within NHS Boards and Boards are currently reporting on progress to date on implementing the 10 Care Actions.

In addition, you know that Healthcare Improvement Scotland’s inspections of care for older people in acute hospitals include a specific focus on dementia and cognitive impairment – and this continues.  You can access their most recent overview report on the HIS website.

With regard to your point about raising concerns and the implication that you feel that recording your concerns has been discouraged at times, I would reiterate that we welcome open debate and discussions around these and other matters and we would welcome the opportunity to get the value of your perspective directly if you should choose at any time to take up our offer to get involved in the implementation of dementia policy.

We do recognise your passion, interest and expertise in these areas and hope you will reconsider the offer.

With best wishes

Scottish Government 
Directorate for Health and Social Care Integration
Mental Health and Protection of Rights Division

Reply to David Berry

Monday 1st April 2015

To the Scottish Government
Directorate for Health and Social Care Integration
Mental Health and Protection of Rights Division
St Andrew’s House, Edinburgh

Many thanks for replying on behalf of the Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health after I had written following the debate on Mental Health that the Minister led in the Scottish Parliament on the 6th January 2015. I attended parliament that day to observe the debate. I am writing to acknowledge your reply which I received on the 30th March 2015.

You state that it appears to you that I am “concerned that there may be what is effectively a national programme of screening for people with cognitive impairment (including dementia) in acute care, and that older people do not have the benefit of information or the option to opt out of such screening.” I am writing to confirm this is indeed my concern as an NHS clinician in Scotland who has followed closely developments in this area. It is clear that the screening for cognitive impairment in NHS Scotland fulfils all the criteria of the World Health Organisation definition of screening.

You say “I hope I can reassure you that no national programme of that kind has been initiated.” I am afraid that I am not reassured. Following inspections Healthcare Improvement Scotland ask that all NHS Boards “cognitively screen” all patients 65 and over admitted to acute hospitals. It is also the case that Healthcare Improvement Scotland measure NHS Board “compliance” with “cognitive screening”. Given the dual role that Healthcare Improvement Scotland have (for scrutiny and improvement), it is my view that, not only do patients have no choice whether to be screened or not, but hospital managers and every employee in each NHS Board are disempowered to question such an approach.

Regarding my “implication” “that recording my concerns has been discouraged at times”, the truth is that after raising concerns I felt that I had no other option but to resign from my NHS post of 13 years. This followed a letter from the Executive Clinical Director of Healthcare Improvement Scotland to the Medical Director of the NHS Board I worked for. This letter went much further than “discouragement”. This letter made all sorts of defamatory statements about my professionalism and character, none of which I accept. This has been my experience of raising concerns about patient safety and wellbeing in NHS Scotland. I am glad then to appreciate that the Cabinet Minister for Health, Wellbeing and Sport has indicated that Scotland will be considering the “Freedom to Speak Up” review by Robert Francis. I am very grateful to hear that the Scottish Government “welcome open debate and discussions around these and other matters”. Unfortunately damage has been done to my career in NHS Scotland for raising such matters.

I am grateful that the Scottish Government “would welcome the opportunity to get the value of my perspective.” Currently I do not have time for such a commitment but as I confirmed recently to you I am happy to help, if I can, on specific matters.

In summary, in NHS Scotland we currently find:

  • Cognitive screening (as defined by the World Health Organisation)
  • that the potential harms of such an approach are not being discussed
  • that the individual’s right to consent has been marginalised

I realise and appreciate that the Scottish Government, along with many other organisations, may continue to disagree with me on the above. However I wanted to put my view on record. As this is a matter of public interest I will share your reply and my response on my website Hole Ousia.

I want to thank you again for your reply.

Kind wishes
Peter signature

Dr Peter J Gordon

Cc: Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health
Cc: Shona Robison, Cabinet Minister for Health, Wellbeing and Sport
Cc: Geoff Huggins, Acting Director for Health and Social Care Integration
Cc: Penny Curtis, Acting Head of the Scottish Government’s Mental Health and Protection of Rights Division

Dr Neil Houston and Dr Brian Robson

Karen Goudie & Dr Wolff 4 Dec 2014