Whistleblower threatened with sack over hospital death rate concerns

Whistleblower threatened with sack over hospital death rate concerns

An NHS whistleblower could be sacked for raising concerns that a hospital was fiddling its death rates.

Sandra Haynes-Kirkbright believes she was hired by the trust because they thought she had distorted figures when she was brought in to Stafford Hospital to oversee improvements in recording data, after up to 1,200 more patients died than expected.

However the 50-year-old says she refused to massage figures at the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, where she worked as a coder, and said she was aware others there were “breaking every rule in the book.”

Mrs Haynes Kirkbright has received an email telling her to attend a disciplinary hearing – warning her she could be sacked.

In the letter Mrs Haynes-Kirkbright is accused of behaving “recklessly or negligently” in disclosing information about her work at the trust without permission to do so, the Daily Mail reported. It also says the hearing will consider whether there has been a “loss of trust and confidence” in her by the employer.

It warns the hearing, “may result in formal disciplinary action, not excluding dismissal.”

The trust rejected the allegations of altering the death rates, calling them an "outrageous slur", and said independently-verified evidence "categorically disproved" her claims.

Its chief executive, David Loughton, said at the time: "Improvements in the hospital's mortality rates have been audited and independently verified."

Mrs Haynes-Kirkbright was suspended by the trust after allegations of bullying, harassment, persistent swearing and unprofessional behaviour were made against her by colleagues through their union in April 2012.

She claims conditions at the hospital were as bad or worse than at scandal-hit Stafford, and that the allegations and suspension were made in an attempt to silence her.

She said: “I feel like David fighting Goliath. I’ve just been telling the truth.”

Her case comes after Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, called for a “culture of openness and transparency” following the Stafford Hospital scandal.

Mrs Haynes-Kirkbright, originally from Texas, worked as a health coder at Wolverhampton, which involves recording details of the care received. The role does not require medical qualifications.

She claims coders were recording too many deaths under palliative care, which are deaths classed as unavoidable and would therefore not alter a trust’s death rates record.

Mr Loughton said: “We categorically deny all the allegations and have provided detailed evidence to the Daily Mail to support our position that the suggestion of any wrong-doing is simply not true.”

By Claire Carter

The Telegraph, 3rd March 2014

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