A DOCTOR who tried to raise the alarm about problems with Scotland’s flagship super hospital suffered post-traumatic stress as a result of the ordeal.

Dr Christine Peters, 45, said she became severely unwell after years of raising concerns with management about what she felt the problems were at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH).

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Her colleague, now-retired Dr Penelope Redding, 69, was hospitalised with heart problems after she also battled to have her concerns heard.

Now both women have spoken exclusively to the Herald about the culture within NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) and urgently called for change to ensure whistleblowers are listened to.

Dr Peters, a Clinical lead Consultant Microbiologist at the QEUH, said: “This is hard for me to say. I’ve had post-traumatic stress, I’ve been on antidepressants, I’ve had to take three months of work and had a loss of confidence, really as a result of this.

“We have to move forward though. It’s just not an option for the NHS to carry on in this ridiculous irrational manner. It is really self-defeating, and every policy that says,’We support whistleblowers’ is empty words unless we see concerns being raised and rapidly addressed, without any fault or any sort of impact on the [whistleblowers’] lives, their families, their livelihoods.

“”Until we get there we are completely deluding ourselves. The experience that I and my colleagues had is a measure of the impact doing something like this has on an individual in a extremely unsupportive environment, where even trying to talk about the fact that you feel targeted, you feel intimidated...That in itself becomes something that they appear to become aggressive about.

“So even in trying to raise these things...you are unsupported in that act itself.”

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Dr Peters said she had “changed as a person” as a result of trying to raise concerns, adding: “It basically changes your life, and your family’s lives. There’s no downtime, you’re on edge the whole time. You try to distract from that, and it’s inevitable that they’re aware of it. You’re not able to support your parents,, not just your kids.

“I would say that I am hopeful, not confident, but I’m hopeful that that discussion post-Sturrock, post the Highland whistleblowers scandal, post- Covid will be to enable people to talk, and for health boards and hierarchy in the NHS, even higher than the boards, to get over themselves.

“Do not take every pointing out of an issue, as a personal insult to the entirety of the NHS. Focus on the dimensions of the problems that are being described, and don’t catastrophise them, and don’t make them into something that the person has not said.Don’t misrepresent them, because I think that is a very potent tool to try and disable what the whistleblowers say.”

Dr Peters started at the hospital in 2014, and began raising concerns through her manager in 2015. After years of receiving no proof that the concerns she had raised had been resolved, she and her colleague Dr Redding decided, along with another colleague, to begin the formal whistleblowing process to try and force action in 2017.

Dr Redding, who retired the following year, said she felt compelled to proceed with the whistleblowing as she was so worried about patient safety.

She also said she raised concerns about the hospital before it even opened, including with the then-chief executive Robert Calderwood, but claimed he “had no interest” in what she had to say as it was weeks before he retired in November 2015.

She explained: “As a whistleblower we were not supported and we were really treated as troublemakers right from right from the start. “

“We raised the formal whistleblowing process in September 2017, and that has been referred to as if that was the first [NHSGGC] heard of it, and they would say they took action immediately, but the fact is I went to directors and senior managers within the health board years before that happened.

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“I am not blind to the obvious toll the ongoing pressures have taken at a very personal level on individuals. That’s one of the reasons why I continue to support whistleblowers. I could not walk away from my involvement in this, and I have said to the board, even since I retired, that I wish I could walk away from this but at the moment I don’t feel that I can.

“My family pleaded with me, and made me promise I would stop pursuing this. I broke my promise, then I ended up in coronary care in April of last year, because of the stress associated with all of this.

“Now I feel that by doing something, at least I have tried. I may not resolve it, I may not make a difference, but at least I had tried. And I think that was the least stressful option, and I think my family would now say that what what I’ve done is the right thing and that they’re proud of me.”

Dr Redding said that she and her colleagues discussed the impacts of raising concerns on patient confidence and trust with the hospital, and realise their actions have affected the public perception of the QEUH.

She explained: “I understand that speaking out has caused a loss in confidence to patients and their families in the hospital.

“We discussed that at every stage of the process but the overriding thing was that this is about patient safety in the long term. We had tried everything else within the board, and this was the only way we were able to go forward.

“What is absolutely critical though, is that the vast majority of patients are not exposed to high risks.

“What we said was there is an increased risk to a small number of patients that must be dealt with. These are very vulnerable patients, you can’t ignore that.

“There will be people out there who believe that their relative either suffered or passed away as a consequence of being in that hospital and that is not correct. Nobody should feel that the entire hospital is unsafe, that everyone is at risk. That is not true.”

Yesterday NHSGGC announced it would be launching a review of whistleblowing procedures and a whistleblowing champion, Charles Vincent, has been appointed to oversee the work.

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It was also announced that the judge-led public inquiry into the QEUH scandal will begin on August 3.

A spokeswoman for NHSGGC was unable to respond before the Herald went to press, however previously stated with regards to the whistleblowing review: "We are currently reviewing our Speak Up and Whistleblowing policies to align with the new national whistleblowing standards.

“We support all staff to speak up if they believe things are not working as they should, as this is an essential element of ensuring patient safety.”