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'We're under a ridiculous amount of pressure' - says top N&N hospital consultant

PUBLISHED: 09:50 25 June 2015 | UPDATED: 11:55 25 June 2015

Norfolk and Norwich Hospital consultant cardiologist Liam Hughes who believes that NHS targets are creating an uneasy balance for staff and patients alike. Photo : Steve Adams

Norfolk and Norwich Hospital consultant cardiologist Liam Hughes who believes that NHS targets are creating an uneasy balance for staff and patients alike. Photo : Steve Adams

Copyright Archant Norfolk 2015

Staff and management at Norfolk’s biggest health provider are under a “ridiculous amount of pressure,” according to an outgoing senior consultant.

Department of Health says staff must be supported

The Department of Health said NHS staff are their greatest asset.

“Well supported staff provide better care to patients,” a spokesman said.

“We’re clear that NHS staff are the experts in providing high-quality, compassionate care, and that if we want them to continue to do this we need to support them and recognise the difficult jobs they do.

“It’s vital that employers ensure staff access the care they need which is why we’ve asked NHS employers to help trusts improve the health and wellbeing of NHS staff.

They said the Government’s plan for the NHS will focus on prevention, innovation, and a patient-centred culture that treats every person with dignity and respect.

“We’re also improving training in safety for new doctors and nurses, and responding to recommendations made to tackle issues around whistleblowing,” the spokesman added.

Dr Liam Hughes, 61, who has worked as a cardiologist at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (N&N) for 22 years, emigrates to New Zealand in August, partly because he believes the NHS being driven by fear and figures,

He said Government pressure on health bosses to hit targets has contributed to a “bullying culture” identified at the hospital by watchdog the Care Quality Commission.

A spokesman for the Department of Health (DoH) said they were committed to improve standards as patients have a right to excellent care and compassion.

“I don’t doubt the trust’s managers have the staff’s best interests at heart, but they are put under such pressure by the CQC and Department of Health,” Dr Hughes said.

“Everyone involved in the provision of healthcare is driven by fear which spreads down right from the top.

“There is a huge hole in the personal satisfaction of staff when everything is driven towards targets.”

The DoH spokesman said: “We’re clear that NHS staff are the experts of providing high-quality, compassionate care, and that if we want them to continue to do so we need to support them and recognise the difficult jobs they do.”

But unions warned clinical standards are being compromised across hospitals as a result of the desire to hit targets.

Earlier this month the CQC reported a “disconnection” between staff and the leadership team at the N&N, and serious concerns were raised about board effectiveness and a bullying culture.

Dr Hughes, who stressed his emigration was not down to disagreements with the trust, said managers were under tremendous pressure to fulfil their objectives.

This could lead to some staff feeling bullied, he added.

And he warned a culture developing nationally of being increasingly measured by outcomes left doctors and GPs so worried about performance they refer patients for extra tests which aren’t always needed.

“Fear of being measured makes people become defensive,” Dr Hughes said.

“When people become defensive they do more tests. More tests cost more money.

“Of course you want to be safe than sorry, but some patients don’t have the remotest of symptoms.”

He said there was a tidal wave of patients coming to hospitals, and added that some patients are over-investigated and over-treated.

Dr Hughes will leave the N&N in mid-August to take up his new position at Nelson Hospital on South Island in New Zealand.

He has taken part in several activities to raise money for new hospital equipment.

In 2007 he was part of a five-strong crew who rowed across the North Sea to help finance a new heart surgery suite at the hospital.

Later that year he was one of 14 people to attempt to set a new world record for rowing across the Atlantic Ocean.

And in 2011 he cycled from Holland to Norwich to help pay for equipment for the N&N’s third angiography suite.

Norfolk&Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust were not available for comment.

•Do you feel under pressure to achieve care targets? Email our health correspondent at nicholas.carding@archant.co.uk

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