In a letter to Scottish newspaper the Herald, several NHS Highland physicians charged that patient lives are being put at risk by a culture within the health system's administration that they said leads to "bullying" and "intimidation" of whistleblowers. At the same time, administrators are ignoring a "crippling" shortage of radiologists in Scotland, they claimed.
Staffing levels across the Scottish NHS system are believed to be at 50% of necessary levels due to retirements and departures of radiologists. NHS Scotland earlier in 2018 launched a recruiting drive to fill vacancies for 32 imaging physicians, but critics have charged that the effort has "failed."
This week's letter said NHS Highland administrators engaged in a "practice of suppressing criticism" that has affected staff morale as well as the quality of patient care. The environment has had a particular impact on radiology, according to the article published on 25 September in the Herald; the system saw its last two interventional radiologists leave over the summer. This has required patients to be transferred to other hospitals.
There are now fewer radiologists on staff than in 2010, despite a 30% increase in workload, according to the article.
The article quoted the former head of NHS Highland's radiology service, interventional radiologist Dr. Alistair Todd, as saying he was blocked from making a presentation to the network's board on the staffing crisis last year by administrators. Todd was the last interventional radiologist in the NHS Highland system until he took early retirement in August, the article noted.
Critics of NHS Highland had hoped to speak at a meeting of the board this week, but were offered face-to-face meetings instead, according to the article.
Bullying within the NHS across the U.K. has become a major issue in recent months. A report on bullying and harassment in the system was issued on 11 September at the U.K. Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) annual congress that called the practice "endemic" in some radiology departments. Some 27% of respondents to a survey said they had experienced persistent episodes of bullying or undermining behavior, the report stated.
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