- Feuding Wexham Hospital employees accused of racial and ethnic split
- Parents of premature baby killed 18 days after birth at 27 weeks have won court battle against Southend University Hospital for covering up failings
- Pensioner given cancer drugs for gallstones at Colchester Hospital
A race row has erupted at a scandal-hit hospital where claims that up to 50 patients died as a result of alleged medical blunders were exposed by The Mail on Sunday last week.
In an unprecedented move, 24 ethnic minority consultants from the hospital have written to the two main health watchdogs, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Monitor, protesting about ‘bullying, harassment and racial discrimination’.
They say the 140 consultants at Wexham Park Hospital, Slough – of whom about 90 are white – are split ‘on racial and ethnic lines’, suggesting that a disturbing type of medical apartheid exists.
It comes as the CQC has said it is to investigate the alleged blunders at ‘high risk’ Wexham Park when it visits the hospital in the next few weeks.
And it follows the revelation that a Tory MP, who is a doctor and whose constituency is served by the hospital, said he stopped his father having an operation there ‘to save his life’.
The growing controversy over the hospital, which serves more than 440,000 people in the Thames Valley, follows this newspaper’s expose of a secret report commissioned by the hospital’s bosses into claims of medical blunders and feuding consultants dating back 14 years.
Whistleblower Anil Desai, an Indian born consultant at Wexham Park, claimed up to 50 people may have died. His claims were dismissed by hospital bosses. But an official report by InPractice, a medical investigations firm, and leaked to this newspaper, supported him.
The dispute escalated yesterday following the letter signed by 24 ethnic minority consultants at Wexham Park. In an incendiary claim, they say patients’ lives are being lost because serious errors by incompetent white doctors are covered up while ethnic minority doctors are victimised for minor mistakes on the operating table.
Their letter states: ‘We are extremely concerned that patient safety is being compromised because of discriminatory treatment meted out to several ethnic minority consultants. This has included bullying and harassment, exclusion (suspension) as a first rather than a last resort, and other unfair treatment.
‘We fear the consultant body will soon be divided along racial and ethnic lines and indeed this may have happened already. We urge the CQC to investigate our concerns urgently in the interests of patient safety.’
‘We fear the consultant body will soon be divided along racial and ethnic lines and indeed this may have happened already’
– Letter signed by 24 ethnic minority consultants
The signatories comprise leading consultants from several departments at the hospital. Most have Indian or Pakistani family roots, but a small number have Middle East or East European backgrounds.
The Mail on Sunday understands that seven ethnic minority consultants and doctors have been suspended in the past 18 months, while no white British consultants had been suspended.
A source said: ‘The ethnic minority doctors feel they are hammered for trivial errors. They feel the mainly white medical hierarchy look after themselves like an old boys’ club and punish outsiders like naughty schoolboys.’
The Mail on Sunday revealed last week how, when Mr Desai first complained about blunders – a claim that was later upheld – an internal inquiry said his Indian background was ‘not initially a problem’. It added that colleagues of the (white) doctor that Desai complained about said ‘he is one of us, whereas Desai isn’t’.
Wexham’s poor reputation was highlighted by Phillip Lee, Tory MP for nearby Bracknell, who is a doctor and still practises as a GP. Mr Lee’s father, Tony, 66, needed surgery and was due to be operated on at Wexham Park, but his son sent him to another hospital.
MP Mr Lee said: ‘I decided he would get better care elsewhere. I did it to save his life. You can die on the operating table. Wexham Park is no longer fit for purpose.’
A CQC spokesman said: ‘Wexham will be inspected because it has been flagged as being potentially high risk. All information, including the InPractice report, will be considered.’
One of the consultants highlighted by The Mail on Sunday last week, Bob Soin, who, according to the InPractice report, had ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ outbursts, has been given two weeks paid time off by the hospital as a result of ‘stress’ caused by last week’s expose. It will cost taxpayers £10,000 to provide cover for him. Wexham Park is reportedly £80million in debt owing to mismanagement. Mr Soin declined to comment.
A spokesman for Wexham Park was asked for a comment but failed to respond yesterday.
CASE TWO: Baby died due to failures in using ventilator… but hospital hid truth
The parents of a premature baby boy who died shortly after birth have won a six-year battle for compensation, after the hospital tried to ‘cover up’ its failings, writes Polly Dunbar.
Daniel Diji died at Southend University Hospital in Essex 18 days after being born prematurely, at 27 weeks. His parents Paul and Melanie were told Daniel was profoundly brain damaged and that he died of ‘extreme prematurity’.
But looking back after the initial shock of their son’s death in December 2007, they became suspicious they had not been told the truth, feeling staff had been ‘edgy and evasive’.
In 2010, with the help of solicitors Simpson Millar, the family launched a legal bid for compensation.
Now they have been awarded a five-figure sum in a Manchester court after a judge ruled hospital staff had failed to ventilate the baby properly.
The pressure they used was too low, so Daniel’s lungs did not inflate properly.
This meant he was starved of oxygen, causing severe brain damage and his eventual death, found Recorder Lawrence McDonald.
‘We feel it was a cover-up. We think they knew from the start they had made a mistake. They’ve added insult to our injury’
– Melanie Diji, mother of baby Daniel
The hospital had denied negligence. Lawyers for the NHS Litigation Authority argued Daniel had been born with dry lung syndrome, in which there is insufficient fluid for lungs to work properly.
But the judge’s verdict was that ‘it was the failure to apply the proper pressures which caused Daniel’s death’, concluding ‘therefore, the breach of duty did cause Daniel’s death’.
Mrs Diji said: ‘We feel it was a cover-up. We think they knew from the start they had made a mistake.
‘By putting us through the ordeal of a court case instead of being honest, they’ve added insult to our injury.’
A Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said: ‘We are extremely sorry the care Daniel received did not meet the standard we would expect and apologise unreservedly to Mrs and Mrs Diji for the loss they suffered following his death in 2007.’
CASE THREE: Pensioner had two years of cancer drugs… for gallstones
Doctors at a hospital where staff fiddled cancer records told a pensioner he had the killer disease when what he really had was gallstones, writes Martyn Halle.
Peter Sharp, 81, spent two years thinking he was close to death when he should have been enjoying retirement.
He was ‘doped up to the eyeballs’ on morphine after being told by doctors at Colchester Hospital in Essex that he had cancer of the gallbladder and bile ducts.
At one stage, Mr Sharp was given six months to live – and counted down the weeks.
The retired engineer kept on living, however, and was informed this August that there had been a mistake: his illness had been not tumours, but gallstones.
Mr Sharp was fit and active until the misdiagnosis was made and he was put on morphine. He now has to use a mobility scooter to get around.
‘Two years of morphine treatment for a cancer I never had has destroyed me. I felt like a zombie most of the time’
– Peter Sharp, 81
He said: ‘Two years of morphine treatment for a cancer I never had has destroyed me. I felt like a zombie most of the time. I can’t believe what’s happened. It’s an unimaginable situation.’
He intends to sue the hospital over the misdiagnosis. His solicitor, Julian Wilson of Thompson, Smith and Puxon, described it as ‘bizarre’ – but said he was investigating a similar case of a patient wrongly given chemotherapy.
A spokesman for Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust said it had apologised to Mr Sharp for the distress and was investigating.
Last week, the hospital was subjected to ‘special measures’ after inspectors found evidence staff had tried to hit targets by falsely recording how long cancer patients were waiting for treatment.
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