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NHS staff 'gagged' over coronavirus PPE shortages

  • An Intensive care doctor who voiced unease over facemasks was told by their hospital managers that “if we hear of these concerns going outside these four walls your career and your position here will be untenable”.

  • An intensive care specialist was called into a meeting with their NHS bosses and disciplined after raising concerns

  • A GP working at Chase Farm hospital in London was sent home for voicing unease

  • A consultant Paediatrician in Yorkshire was told in an email from their hospital that their social media output was being monitored and they should be careful.

  • A GP who appealed to her community on social media for more supplies of PPE was then barred by her local NHS clinical commissioning group from speaking out. “I was being warned I wasn’t toeing the party line,” she said.

Doctors and Nurses are being bullied, disciplined and threatened with the sack by NHS Managers for raise their concerns publicly, according to a dossier of evidence collated by the Doctors’ Association UK.

Tactics being used to deter staff by NHS managers from voicing their unease include “threatening” emails, the possibility of disciplinary action and in two cases being sent home from work. In many cases these clinicians have been given warnings after managers were irritated by material they had posted on social media.

“Doctors across the frontlines are extremely concerned about the lack of personal protective equipment [PPE]. Many have told us they have tried to raise concerns through the proper channels but have been warned against taking these concerns further,” said Dr Samantha Batt Rawden, the Doctor's Association President.

“At this time when we desperately need every single doctor on the frontline, some have had their careers threatened, and at least two doctors have been sent home from work. This is unacceptable. Doctors have a moral duty to make their concerns regarding Covid-19 public if these cannot be resolved locally,” she added.

In recent weeks staff have posted photographs on social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram of makeshift PPE they have put together using materials such as bin bags. This has angered NHS Bosses who have a toolbox of weapons they regularly deploy to stop dissent by frontline staff, these include; nondisclosure agreements, disciplinary action and even sacking.

For example, A&E staff at Southend hospital in Essex have been warned that they could face disciplinary action if they raise the issue of PPE publicly:

In a memo on 26 March they were told: “The posting of inappropriate social media commentary or the posting of photographs of staff in uniform who are not complying with IPC [infection prevention and control] standards and social distancing requirements is unacceptable. Such behaviour will be considered under the disciplinary policy."

NHS Managers have reverted to type. Even in this time of crisis, when frontline colleagues are literally risking their lives to save others, their first thought is for themselves and their reputation and not the frontline staff. Bureaucracies tends to function to preserve themselves. Our Doctors and Nurses, who are doing an incredible job under exceptional circumstances, deserve better.. MUCH better.

The Editor: Vision News 2020

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