Hospital whistleblowers' fury

FURIOUS hospital insiders have today told of rock-bottom morale, a six week backlog of post and lost patient notes following a reshuffle of medical secretary posts.

FURIOUS hospital insiders have today told of rock-bottom morale, a six week backlog of post and lost patient notes following a reshuffle of medical secretary posts.

And they claim a new computer system is endangering patients as staff find it increasingly difficult to find patient records.

Following denials from managers at Ipswich Hospital that medical secretaries are being forced out of their jobs a number of whistleblowers have contacted The Evening Star to voice their fears.

As reported in the Star last week, a review into the employees at the hospital has resulted in medical secretaries leaving the trust and not being replaced.

While one furious whistleblower claims there is a five to six week backlog of correspondence another claims there is a three-week backlog to open patient's test results in the oncology department - a claim the hospital rejects.

Comments from the hospital stating there had simply been a reorganisation and that nobody had been forced into redundancies have ignited fury among volunteers and staff.

Most Read

Jane, who declined to use her real name for fear of losing her job, has been a medical secretary at the hospital for several years.

She said: “I am incredibly angry. It is not true that people haven't been downgraded. I am one of those people.

“The hospital system is already in a state. The backlog of correspondence is up to five or six weeks because we are so short staffed.

“I am extremely concerned because of the knock-on effect on patients. The system is so complicated and we told the hospital there would be problems but the management have shown us no support whatsoever.”

Another whistleblower, who also declined to be identified, said the pressure on staff was “gigantic”.

They said: “The reality is that staff have been reduced and their hours cut. Every patient has a set of records and it is essential for them to be available for nursing and medical staff to refer to.

“Notes and records are increasingly difficult to lay hands on because of this new computer system. I am concerned not only for the patients but also the staff who are under this pressure.”

Did you resign or take redundancy from one of the medical secretary posts? Are you a patient whose notes have been lost? Call the Star newsroom on 01473 324788.

We would like to make it clear that in an Evening Star article on Thursday where a hospital spokeswoman was quoted as saying medical secretaries had agreed to changes, she was referring to changes to a computer system, not to job changes.

We apologise for any confusion caused.

The hospital's response

Jan Rowsell, hospital spokeswoman, said: “This has been a period of great change and we will be working closely with the staff in this area to find ways of addressing any backlog.

“We do appreciate people can feel a downgrading has happened because of their job titles and salaries changing but this was not our intention. We are simply moving to a new structure.”

She said the new system was put in place to improve the service and make the best use of skilled staff.

It involved changing from employing one secretary for every one or two consultants to a team-based system.

Before the changes there were 134 medical secretaries working at Ipswich Hospital. Then in April this year 95 people were given new roles, while still working as medical secretaries.

In addition two people asked for voluntary redundancy, four people resigned and two people took other posts.

Ms Rowsell said some of the new roles did involve people moving down within the hospital's grading system because the change to the new system involved everyone reapplying for their jobs.

After the interviews medical secretaries were given either senior or support positions which had different salary levels.

Since September the changes to the system have already saved the cash-strapped hospital £140,000 and between September 2006 and September 2007 the changes are predicted to save £700,000.

However Ms Rowsell added that the changes had made no impact on backlogs of letters in the hospital.

She added: “We had existing issues with backlogs of work and part of the reason for introducing the new system was actually to try to deal with the backlog.”

She said the backlog mainly involves administrative letters and there was no delay in any departments of opening test results.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter