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20 April 2000

EXTERNAL INQUIRY CALL INTO BEDFORD HOSPITAL TRUST

Health union MSF is seeking an external, independent inquiry into the "flaws in the management system", following the Bedford Hospital NHS Trust cardiac pacemaker report.

The move follows an extraordinary meeting of the Trust Board yesterday (Wednesday, 19 April) into its internal inquiry.

MSF is concerned that the inquiry has been more interested in targeting a trade union representative than in preventing such problems arising again. MSF believes the manager of the hospital's Cardiology department, Monica Carmichael, who has been suspended for six months, is being made a scapegoat for systematic failures in the hospital's management structure.

MSF believes that that Monica has been targeted because of her union involvement - she is Secretary of the Joint Union Staff Side Committee and highly respected by staff colleagues. MSF's Head of Health, Roger Kline said today (Thursday, 20 April): "There are wider clinical governance issues at stake here that affect the public's health and their confidence in the Trust. We are concerned that the Trust is manipulating the situation to cover up flaws in the system."

"Monica was mentioned 23 times by name in the report whereas a "no blame" culture seems to apply to senior management and doctors. She has been put in the firing line, as if she is the only person responsible for taking management decisions in the Trust. The internal inquiry is a damaged document, as it is judge, jury and executioner all rolled into one."

"MSF and others called for an independent inquiry at the start of this process. We were ignored and the Trust set up an inquiry in which it determined its composition and terms of reference. It would not even allow the Community Health Council to be an observer on the inquiry. It has now produced a flawed report."

"The way that the affair has been so badly handled must call into question the future of the Trust's Chief Executive, Ken Williams, who, it should not be forgotten, is actually responsible for the running of the Trust. The buck stops at his desk if the overall systems are not 100%."

"We will be seeking an independent inquiry and we will be consulting with the other interested parties over the next week as to what is the best way to approach this."

MSF will continue to give "strong and unequivocal support" to Monica who has been subject to "the most outrageous piece of victimisation."

-ends-

NOTE FOR NEWS DESKS

For further information, please contact:

Roger Kline 0468 69 39 34
Shaun Noble Press Officer (020) 7939 7043 Mobile 0468 69 39 40

MSF press releases can be seen on our web site: www.msf.org.uk

MSF represents 65,000 health service professionals including the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists, laboratory scientific staff, the College of Health Care Chaplains, the Community Psychiatric Nurses Association, the Medical Practitioners' Union, clinical psychologists, speech therapists, the Hospital Physicists Association and the Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association.

MSF has 400,000 skilled and professional members in a wide range of industries. It is the UK's fifth largest union.

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