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Found 21 results
  1. News Article
    Women suffering from chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs) are facing mental health crises after being “dismissed and gaslighted” by health professionals for years, according to a leading specialist. Daily debilitating pain has left patients feeling suicidal, with those in recovery describing lingering mental health problems “akin to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)”, said Dr Rajvinder Khasriya, an NHS consultant urogynaecologist at the Whittington Hospital in London. Patients have said they feel crippling anxiety over planning ahead to ensure there is always a toilet around, even after their condition has been controlled with treatment. Vicky Matthews, who searched for a diagnosis for three years after a recurrent UTI became chronic, said the condition caused a “gradual decline” in her mental health as medical professionals were unable to pinpoint what was causing her pain. "I questioned my pain. I questioned what was going on. I questioned whether it was actually real and that was a pretty awful thing to be dealing with on top of having physical pain,” the 43-year-old said, describing what she felt was “mental torture”. Read full story Source: I News, 12 February Further reading on the hub The clinical implications of bacterial pathogenesis and mucosal immunity in chronic urinary track infection
  2. Content Article
    In 2015 the Government introduced a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian and a system of Local Speak Up Guardians in response to the recommendations made by Sir Robert Frances following the scandal at Mid Staffordshire. From the outset, this system has attracted significant criticism and the APPG has heard from whistleblowers who have been failed by local guardians sharing their experiences that included the disclosure of their identity to hospital management and boards – resulting in retaliation. The APPG has also heard from Local Guardians who were not supported and themselves the target of retaliation after supporting whistleblowers. Local Guardians in East Kent were described as, “dishonest” and that the Guardian system had failed in every case that had been investigated throughout the UK. Further evidence was provided of a tick box approach to the Duty of Candour introduced by the former Secretary of State for Health. The APPG was told that both the Guardian and Duty of Candour systems are beyond resurrection and that across the NHS there is no ownership of problems. All attempts to encourage speaking up have been hindered by a failure to introduce an effective and safe whistleblowing regime across the NHS, resulting in the NHS being unsafe for whistleblowers, making it unsafe for patients. The APPG were told that, in over 50 years of investigation experience, little has changed, and that “these issues are not new, nor are they confined to a small number of rogue hospitals”. That league table results are inaccurate because of a flawed regulatory system with no ownership of the problems and where the regulators are “caught up in the fraud”. The APPG was provided with a series of examples of what were described as “deep seated problems” relating to teamwork and culture, which resulted in the failure to join up clinical and ethical responsibilities. These responsibilities were described as being on separate tracks and a failure by the regulatory regime to identify or report on the impact of this has significant consequences for patients, whistleblowers and the future of the NHS, as demonstrated by the case of the Bristol Children’s Heart scandal brought to light by Dr Steve Bolsin 30 years ago. Dr Bolsin was shunned for exposing the failures that resulted in the death of so many babies because funding the unit was more of a priority that the lives of the babies (he has since made a successful career in Australia). In every case, a failure to listen to whistleblowers, followed by attempts to discredit the whistleblowers, and a deliberate cover up has proved in many cases fatal for patients. What has been proved time and time again is that The Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) has made little or no difference to this failure to protect patients or whistleblowers or to learn and improve our NHS. Evidence provided to the APPG is of a lack of system-wide action and an absence of commitment to speaking up beyond excellent PR. It is unclear who, if anyone, is responsible for the monitoring and reporting on recommendations contained in investigation reports. In addition, there is no coherent process for triggering high-level independent reviews of major patient safety failings. This causes confusion, suffering and leads to missed opportunities. Mary Robinson MP, chair of the APPG for Whistleblowing, said: “We have a duty to support and protect whistleblowers because without them we cannot prevent more deaths like those in East Kent. My APPG is committed to making whistleblowing safe and will continue to press the Government to introduce the Whistleblowing Bill which will incentivise and normalise speaking up. I encourage everyone to write to their MPs and ask them to join the APPG and support the Whistleblowing Bill.” The Right Hon. Baroness Susan Kramer, said: “Doing nothing is not an option that we can afford. It’s time to put an end to ‘tick box culture’ and turning a blind eye to whistleblowers. Whistleblowing law must be meaningful, easily understandable and enforceable. The Whistleblowing Bill will do this and in doing so will save lives and protect our NHS.” Wendy Morden MP, member of the APPG for Whistleblowing, said: “I hear about problems when I am at the hairdresser because people are too afraid to speak up in their place of work. The Office of the Whistleblower will be the catalyst for meaningful change.” Dr Bill Kirkup, author of Reading the Signals Report, said: “I support the proposals set out in the Whistleblowing Bill because the NHS urgently needs an effective early warning system.”
  3. Content Article
    91% of female doctors have experienced sexism at work, according to a survey published by the BMA in August 2021. 56% of female respondents have experienced unwanted verbal conduct and 31% have experienced unwanted physical conduct.[1] These numbers prove that there is a culture of sexism and misogyny within healthcare. To clarify those terms, sexism is defined as prejudice, stereotyping or discrimination based upon an individual’s sex, whereas misogyny has a more sinister edge, defined as a dislike of, contempt for or ingrained prejudice against women.[2] It is important to highlight the distinction here as the perpetrators of sexist attitudes and behaviours often do not believe that they hate women – after all they have wives, mothers, daughters or sisters. However, whether or not the intention behind treating women differently to men is one coming from a place of kindness or contempt does not matter. Treating women differently to men disadvantages everyone as we all end up consigned to limited gender roles. So what does this look like within healthcare? “I am in a management role and lead a large team. I have had several experiences of men within my team who are much more junior than me being invited to represent our discipline in senior meetings or on interview panels instead of me… despite them not being qualified enough to take on those tasks.” Testimony from Surviving In Scrubs campaign website. “When I was an FY1 working in orthopaedics my supervisor told me that I should go into primary care because as a female that was the best career choice for me. It would make life easier to have children and I would be able work part time to look after them. We had previously never discussed my career options/aspirations or whether I wanted/could have children.” Testimony from Surviving In Scrubs campaign website. These incidences of undermining the authority and expertise of female healthcare workers, favouring less qualified men and making assumptions about a woman’s perceived desire for a ’traditional‘ family life over career aspirations are commonplace in healthcare. They are by no means the only examples of how women are treated as less valuable employees within the healthcare system. “As a house-officer I was groped whilst assisting a mastectomy. The consultant anaesthetist slid his hand under the drapes and groped me between my legs. I was so shocked I froze." Testimony from Surviving In Scrubs campaign. website “A patient threatened to rape me. My (male) manager laughed and said ’well what do we expect, bringing a beautiful woman on the ward?’” Testimony from Surviving In Scrubs campaign website. Sexual harassment and sexual assault occur within healthcare. A paper published in 2021 authored by Simon Fleming and Becky Fisher has shone a light on the issue within surgical training.[3] Again more work needs to be done on defining the prevalence of these criminal behaviours throughout the whole of the healthcare workforce. This is where the Surviving in Scrubs campaign comes in. This campaign was set up by myself and Dr Becky Cox earlier this year. We are currently collecting anonymous testimonies from ANY healthcare professional who has experienced sexism, misogyny, sexual harassment, sexual assault or even rape whilst in work. This can be at the hands of colleagues or patients. So far, we have over 120 testimonies and we have more coming in every day. We are collecting this data to show the human cost of these cultural problems. But also, to demonstrate the strength and power that each individual voice and testimony can have in bringing about change. The collective narrative that we have already established from a variety of healthcare backgrounds – doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, clinical psychologists, administrative staff, paramedics, etc – has already led to key stakeholders taking notice. We have had meetings with the GMC, NHS England, representatives from royal colleges, the BMA and other unions and governing bodies. There is buy in, and a drive to bring about change. But we need to keep pushing! We need more stories and voices so that we are able to represent survivors of this terrible culture within healthcare. Every voice that speaks up makes a difference. If you’ve experienced issues like these, we need your voice too! Email Surviving in Scrubs with your story or use one of the following social media platforms: Website: www.survivinginscrubs.co.uk Twitter: @scrubsurvivors @ByChelcie Instagram: @scrubsurvivors References 1. BMA. Sexism in medicine. British Medical Association, 2021. 2. Wolf N, Bindel J, Power N, et al. Sexism and misogyny: what's the difference? The Guardian, 2012. 3. Fleming S, Fisher RA. Sexual assualt in surgery: a painful truth. The Bulletin of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, 2021; 103 (6): 272-322.
  4. News Article
    A damning inquiry into the Royal College of Nursing, the world’s biggest nurses’ union, has exposed bullying, misogyny and a sexual culture where women are at risk of “alcohol and power-related exploitation”. A 77-page internal report by Bruce Carr KC, leaked to the Guardian, lays bare how the RCN’s senior leadership has been “riddled with division, dysfunction and distrust” and condemns the male-dominated governing body, known as council, as “not fit for purpose”. Grave concerns are also raised about the RCN’s annual conference, known as congress, where Carr says an “inappropriate sexual culture” warrants further urgent investigation “to identify the extent to which [it] has actually resulted in exploitation of the vulnerable”. The eminent barrister reports that there is evidence to support the “impression” that senior individuals have been seeking to take sexual advantage of subordinates and “engaging in unwanted sexual behaviours”. He calls on those whose conduct is cited in the report, whom he does not name, to consider their positions in the light of testimony of groping, humiliation of female staff members and a refusal of those in positions of responsibility to reflect on the letters of resignation from women on the council, who have complained of “gaslighting and microaggressions”. Read full story Source: The Guardian, 10 October 2022
  5. News Article
    The NHS accused vaginal mesh victims fighting for compensation of lying about pain, it has been claimed. Women suing hospitals over harm they suffered following mesh operations are being subjected to “devastating” treatment, according to Robert Rose, the head of clinical negligence at law firm Lime Solicitors. Campaign group Sling the Mesh, which represents thousands of patients, said it had received reports of those injured claiming they have been told their symptoms are psychosomatic, that their evidence is not convincing because of their mental state, or that they are lying about their pain. It comes as MPs are set to hold an inquiry following up on the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices (IMMD) Safety Review, chaired by Baroness Cumberlege in 2020, which looked into cases of patients being harmed by mesh procedures, sodium valproate, and hormone pregnancy tests. Lady Cumberlege called for the government to launch a redress scheme for patients in order to provide them with financial support without the need for them to go through clinical negligence battles. Lisa, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, launched her claim in 2016, and it was settled this summer when a judge ruled in her favour. Documents shared with The Independent reveal that NHS lawyers argued she was being “dishonest” about her injuries, and presented video surveillance. The judge subsequently ruled that she had not been dishonest. Speaking about her ordeal, Lisa said: “Once they decided that I’d been dishonest, it changed from admitting liability to basically working out pain levels and stuff like that, and I had to prove that I wasn’t being dishonest. It was genuinely the worst thing I’ve ever gone through, ever. There’s not even a word that I can use to describe it, to say how it made me feel. The stress of it was just immense." Read full story Source: The Independent, 11 September 2022 Further reading Doctors shocking comments to women harmed by mesh Specialist mesh centres are failing to offer adequate support to women harmed by mesh (Patient Safety Learning and Sling the Mesh) “There’s no problem with the mesh”: A personal account of the struggle to get vaginal mesh removal surgery
  6. Community Post
    It's #SpeakUpMonth in the #NHS so why isn't the National Guardian Office using the word whistleblowing? After all it was the Francis Review into whistleblowing that led to the recommendation for Speak Up Guardians. I believe that if we don't talk about it openly and use the word 'WHISTLEBLOWING' we will be unable to learn and change. Whistleblowing isn’t a problem to be solved or managed, it’s an opportunity to learn and improve. So many genuine healthcare whistleblowers seem to be excluded from contributing to the debate, and yes not all those who claim to be whistleblowers are genuine. The more we move away for labelling and stereotyping, and look at what's happening from all angles, the more we will learn. Regardless of our position, role or perceived status, we all need to address this much more openly and explicitly, in a spirit of truth and with a genuine desire to learn and change.
  7. Community Post
    Way back in March I applied to re-join the NHS to help with COVID-19. I am a mental health nurse prescriber with an unblemished clinical record. I have had an unusual career which includes working in senior management before returning to clinical work in 2002. I have also helped deliver several projects that achieved nation recognition, including one that was highly commented by NICE in 2015, and one that was presented at the NICE Annual Conference in 2018. Several examples of my work can be found on the NICE Shared Learning resource pages. Since applying as an NHS returner. I have been interviewed online 6 times by 3 different organisations, all repeating the same questions. I was told that the area of work I felt best suited to working in - primary care/ community / mental health , specialising in prescribing and multi-morbidity - was in demand. A reference has been taken up and my DBS check eventually came through. I also received several (mostly duplicated) emails. On 29th June I received a call from the acute trust in Cornwall about returning. I explained that I had specified community / primary care as I have no recent acute hospital experience. The caller said they would pass me over to NHS Kernow, an organisation I had mentioned in my application. I have heard nothing since. I can only assume the backlisting I have suffered for speaking out for patients, is still in place. If this is true (and I am always open to being corrected) it is an appalling reflection on the NHS culture in my view. Here is my story: http://www.carerightnow.co.uk/i-dont-want-to-hear-anything-bad-whistleblowing-in-health-social-care/
  8. News Article
    Again and again, Hannah Catton told doctors something was wrong with her body. Again and again, she said, the doctors dismissed her concerns. They didn’t listen in late 2018 when she told them about her frequent urinary tract infections. They didn’t listen months later when she returned to tell them she was having irregular periods. And they didn’t listen when she complained of bloating, constipation, diarrhea and extreme pain. Catton was telling them her body was in rebellion. Almost a dozen physicians told her otherwise: She was young and healthy, so it was probably nothing — just a little too much stress. One told her she was overweight and losing a few pounds might ease her symptoms. Almost three years passed after Catton’s symptoms first emerged, during which she saw about 10 doctors. Then, in October, she collapsed in pain and took herself to the emergency room. From one of her ovaries, surgeons pulled a cancerous blob weighing roughly 4½ pounds and stretching nearly eight inches — about the size of a volleyball. After her years-long crusade to be heard, Catton, now 24, wants other women and doctors to learn from her experience. Women should learn the warning signs of ovarian cancer and forcefully advocate for themselves, she said, while doctors need to become better versed in recognizing the symptoms. More importantly, Catton said, physicians need to listen to patients instead of dismissing them. Catton knew early on that something was wrong, that it wasn’t just stress. Despite that, she acquiesced to the doctors because she didn’t “want to be a patient that wastes time.” She’s not alone, clinical psychologist Bella Grossman told Northwell Health’s Katz Institute for Women’s Health in the article “Gaslighting in women’s health: No, it’s not just in your head.” Men tend to be more persistent with their doctors when they have concerns about their health, Grossman said. Read full story (paywalled) Source: Washington Post, 9 February 2022
  9. News Article
    Women who underwent damaging surgery in Irish hospitals have accused health authorities of dragging them into a "nightmare" of "gaslighting, ignorance and disrespect". Having had vaginal mesh implants, the women told an Oireachtas committee that they were "maimed" and then led on "a fool's errand" when they sought support from the HSE. The Health Committee heard from members of Mesh Ireland and Mesh Survivors Ireland who represent around 750 women. While the HSE said that it would be "extremely difficult" to provide accurate figures, it estimates that around 10,000 women had this surgery in Ireland. More than one in ten have suffered complications, Dr Cliona Murphy, Clinical Lead for the National Women and Infants Health Programme, revealed. Mary McLaughlin, Mesh Ireland, said that at one point, "I lay in bed 16 hours a day", because of the pain she was in. She demanded dignity and respect for survivors in the face of this "global scandal". The women are calling for access to a US-based expert in complete mesh removal, to mirror schemes in Scotland and the Canadian state of Quebec. Read full story Source: RTE, 29 March 2022
  10. Content Article
    The recent BBC dramatisation of Adams Kay’s memoir of his time as an obstetrician and gynaecologist, 'This Is Going to Hurt', has hit a nerve with many. For some it’s a thought-provoking work of brilliance – that highlights the real-world fragility of the NHS and its workers. For others, the deep vein of misogyny that runs through it is unacceptable, and the dehumanised portrayal of childbirth triggering for many. Whilst the BBC series is semi-fictional, the objections are part of a trend of women speaking up about being mistreated/disbelieved by medical professionals, resulting in delays in diagnosis and serious harm (in addition to the psychological burden of being gaslit). It’s not surprising that many of these stories are gynaecological. The uterus may no longer be seen as the source of hysteria, but it has now been replaced by the female mind (or the unpredictable female hormones, which are felt to ultimately control their minds). We view female pain differently to male pain. Female pain is normalised, as women’s natural physiological processes are presumed to be inherently painful. This myth seems widespread among obstetricians and gynaecologists; for example, frequently using the yardstick of ‘period cramps’ when describing female pain. This comparison manages to both ignore the fact many women do not find menstruation painful, and simultaneously belittle those who do have pathologically painful periods. It’s easy to forget that for most of western history, women’s reproductive health was not even considered worthy enough to be in the domain of the medical profession (that role being filled by midwives or lay women). Last year, I spoke at the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (only founded in the 20th century) about the origins and development of our speciality; and how that history still impacts our views, particularly on female pain and decision making. The response was predictably mixed, but there was a degree of defensiveness I had not anticipated. Perhaps because we see ourselves as the good guys; trying our best to care for women in a broken, understaffed system. It’s that broken system that’s the setting for ‘This is Going to Hurt’. While the book was nearly universally praised when it was released in 2017, I had found it almost unbearable to read at the time. The sexism, overconfidence, bullying and ‘rag-week’ humour were too painfully familiar to me, as a junior in the speciality; and the praise heaped on the book amplified that feeling. I am also not alone in doubting if the punitive treatment of the (largely white) women in the book would still have been seen as funny if the protagonist was a Muslim man? Would the sarcastic quips be as witty if the arrogance was from a black woman? There was more nuance in the TV series; with the recognition that (the more fictionalised) anti-hero’s attitude to women was not acceptable – but it was still glamourised. The arrogant, complex, maverick battling inhuman fatigue (while still maintaining excellent hair, and no professional boundaries) is a TV doctor trope. It’s a shorthand for clinical brilliance that sadly persists in the real world. It’s that lack of humility that is particularly dangerous in our speciality and puts women at risk. Because our patients are female, it is also particularly easy to fall back on the cultural misogyny we have inherited, and blame women themselves when we can’t explain symptoms. But my experience is that these attitudes are waning, and the obstetric culture of the mid-2000s depicted by Kay increasingly dated. Junior doctors would find his description of ‘Brats and Twats’ bewilderingly alien. But the real change is being forced by women themselves. The public is increasingly questioning and insisting on improvement; and we are rightly having to listen. Further reading Medicines, research and female hormones: a dangerous knowledge gap Dangerous exclusions: The risk to patient safety of sex and gender bias My endometriosis hell and why chronic pain patients need an end to 'medical gaslighting' Regulatory flaws: Women were catastrophically failed in the mesh, Primodos and Sodium Valproate tragedies The normalisation of women’s pain ‘Women are being dismissed, disbelieved and shut out’ Gender bias: A threat to women’s health
  11. Content Article
    In Spring 2021, I was due to meet a senior NHS official, along with a group of pelvic mesh campaigners, to ask for consistent training of all surgeons performing mesh removal procedures. That meeting was cancelled, and I’m calling for it to be reinstated, and fast. We desperately need action to sort out the inadequate, piecemeal approach the NHS has taken to redress the harm caused by surgical mesh. I manage a Facebook support group of over 9,200 women, most of whom are still living with debilitating pain and side effects caused by pelvic mesh. Each experience tells of harm added to harm - of mesh removal surgery being hard to access and inconsistent, and of hopelessly long waiting lists. Mesh specialist centres - inconsistent and inaccessible There are seven mesh complication centres in the UK[1] - six in England, one in Scotland and none in Wales or Northern Ireland - but assessment and surgical procedures vary hugely between these centres: There is no consistent training for surgeons undertaking mesh removal, with each centre taking its own approach. This needs to be addressed urgently with centralised training and standards to ensure that the most effective, evidence-based approach is taken for each and every woman. Some surgeons seem reluctant to undertake mesh removal and many women are sent away with no treatment other than to ‘keep taking painkillers’. It shouldn’t be that the care a patient is offered depends on a surgeon’s preference. There are only seven mesh specialist centres, meaning some women have to travel hundreds of miles for every appointment. Many have to undergo surgery without a family member or friend with them because of travel costs. In addition, there is only one centre in the country, in London, that will consider removing rectopexy mesh. This mesh may have been implanted in a smaller number of patients, but the incidence and severity of harm seems to be even greater than for women with transvaginal mesh. When patients are offered mesh removal surgery, waiting times are often in excess of two years. As with many other areas of the healthcare system, the problem has been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic. Emerging victims of the surgical mesh scandal The Cumberlege Review began to shed some light on the harm caused to women who had pelvic mesh implanted. But the story is so much bigger than pelvic mesh - new patients who have had mesh implanted in other areas of the body are increasingly approaching Sling the Mesh, reporting pain and other side effects. There has been no review in England into the use of mesh to treat hernias[2], and we are seeing an increasing number of women reporting complications after mesh has been inserted into the abdomen following TRAM flap surgery[3], a procedure where abdominal tissue is used in breast reconstruction. Many of these people report being told by their surgeons that their pain is caused by ‘anxiety’; much the same story women with transvaginal mesh complications were given six years ago before the media started covering this issue extensively. This amounts to medical gaslighting and adds to the harm caused by the initial insertion of mesh devices. The NHS needs to learn from the hard lessons of the pelvic mesh scandal and take a joined-up and patient-centred approach to dealing with these emerging issues. The NHS needs to listen and take action Baroness Cumberlege’s review should have marked a sea change in the treatment of women who have suffered harm as a result of transvaginal mesh. But the NHS response has lacked will and focus, leaving thousands of patients still living with pain and distress as a result of surgical harm. Those individuals and agencies with the power to bring consistency and compassion to mesh removal surgery need to listen to the patients who have suffered life-changing injury. And taking the time to meet with us would be a good first step. Suggested reading Regulatory flaws: Women were catastrophically failed in the mesh, Primodos and Sodium Valproate tragedies - a blog by Kath Sansom Ineffective medical device recalls are a patient safety scandal - a blog by Kath Sansom A year on from the Cumberlege Review: Initial reflections on the Government’s response (Patient Safety Learning, 23 July 2021) Transvaginal Mesh Timeline (7 December 2017) References 1. 'England Mesh Complication Centres Announced'. British Society of Urogynaecology website, 5 February 2021 2. 'Hernia mesh complications "affect more than 100,000"'. BBC website, accessed 22 November 2021 3. 'Breast reconstruction using tissue from your tummy'. Macmillan Cancer Support website, accessed 22 November 2021