A WHISTLEBLOWER’S champion at a scandal-hit health board has quit claiming serious issues were being ignored.
Munwar Hussain has stood down from NHS Tayside board and written to the First Minister and Health Secretary Jeane Freeman to raise his concerns.
He had been appointed the board’s whistleblowing champion – a role meant to ensure staff’s concerns were treated seriously – in April and was also chair of the board’s staff governance committee and a member of the audit and remuneration committees.
Yesterday, he told the Sunday Post: “I have decided to resign my position from NHS Tayside.
“I am on stress leave from this role. I have taken the decision not to return when my leave expires and I have notified the chairman.
“Certain matters were escalated to me that were serious and cause for concern. I, in turn, highlighted these issues to the chairman and others. I feel that I have not been given the appropriate assurances that these important matters are being dealt with. I have put the range of my concerns in writing to the cabinet secretary and the First Minister. I am still waiting on a reply.”
He refused to detail the issues he raised, but added: “I feel it’s serious but they are not taking it seriously.”
NHS Tayside confirmed Mr Hussain has resigned with effect from October 17, adding: “We can confirm that Mr Hussain raised concerns relating to one particular case and this is currently under investigation.”
He is one of three resignations from the board, also including the vice-chair Stephen Hay and Doug Cross, chair of the finance and resources committee. All three are members of the audit committee.
They have stood down after both the chief executive and chair left their posts after it emerged NHS Tayside had taken charitable donations to pay for an IT system.
NHS Tayside said: “Non-executive members of Tayside NHS Board Doug Cross, Stephen Hay and Munwar Hussain have decided to step down from the board and will leave over the next few weeks.”
The departures come as two reports into the financial scandals at NHS Tayside are expected to be published in the coming weeks.
The crisis at NHS Tayside emerged earlier this year when it was revealed more than £2 million had been taken from its endowment fund – made up of public donations and bequests from wills – to cover the costs of new IT systems in 2014.
Auditors also found accounts had been “misrepresented”, with a practice of using funds earmarked for e-health initiatives to offset general expenditure since 2012.
It led to the resignation of chair Professor John Connell in April after then Health Secretary Shona Robison took the unusual step of calling for him to step down.
Chief executive Lesley McLay was effectively removed from her post in the same month and left at the end of July after going off on sick leave.
The charity regulator OSCR launched an inquiry into the use of Tayside NHS Board’s endowment fund, which is expected to report by the end of September.
Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson, Anas Sarwar MSP, said: “These resignations throw NHS Tayside into fresh turmoil, and members of the public will rightly want to know what caused half of the committee to dramatically resign.”
Miles Briggs, Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary, added: “NHS Tayside has been limping from one controversy to another, so both the timing and the nature of the resignations will raise questions.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Ministers are aware of these resignations and would like to thank those members for their contribution to NHS Tayside. Any issues raised around whistleblowing will be fully explored in accordance with existing NHS whistleblowing policy.”
Dundee-based Labour MSP Jenny Marra said the allegations were “horrifically worrying.”
NHS Tayside has said it will investigate the patients’ allegations.
Following the documentary, another former Carseview patient told BBC Scotland that she felt “traumatised” following her time in the unit and said it should be closed.
The Scottish government said the accusations were “very concerning” and that they had “been clear” that NHS Tayside must “swiftly investigate any allegations of mistreatment or breaches of patients’ rights.”
Ms Marra said she had been given “cast-iron assurances” two years ago during a visit to the unit that “everything was fine” and that “these problems don’t exist.”
She said: “Now clearly that just wasn’t true.
“I am calling today on the cabinet secretary for health to put NHS Tayside mental health services into crisis measures because this is about public confidence.
“People in Dundee and Tayside need to know that their loved ones are being properly cared for.
“And from what we have seen on the documentary, people are being failed, there is clearly no doubt about it.”
David Strang, the former HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, will chair an independent inquiry into mental health services across NHS Tayside.
The allegations made in the BBC documentary will be included in the inquiry.
Ms Marra, who has called for a new team of doctors to be brought into Carseview, said: “It’s supposed to report in September, they really need now to speed up this process.”
Former patient Daisy Stewart, who was first admitted to Carseview aged 17, said she could “totally relate” to many of the accusations in the programme.
She said: “I felt like the restraints were kind of like punishment rather than the other hospitals I’d been in.
“They’ve tried to make it supportive, whereas in Carseview it feels like you’re a nuisance and they just want to quieten you.”
Miss Stewart said she was mixed in with “a lot of people who were taking drugs or had taken drugs.”
She said that her time in the unit did her “no good at all” and called for Carseview to be closed.
She said: “I’d say it nearly killed me.
“I’m surprised I got through it and I still feel really traumatised from it to the point where I still don’t really trust mental health professionals very much.
“I definitely felt more traumatised from Carseview than the trauma I had when I originally went in.
“The whole place has a vibe that is not healthy for a person without mental illness, never mind someone with depression.”
Miss Stewart’s mother Lisa said that on one occasion her daughter had left Carseview and phoned her from a shop after taking an overdose.
Ms Stewart called Carseview and was told that her daughter was sleeping. After checking, staff discovered she was not there.
She said: “I said, is someone going to get her? “No. we’re too busy for that.”
“So I had to go and the police were there and they said this happens all the time, nobody comes to get them.”
Ms Stewart said she could not take her daughter from the unit as she had been admitted under section.
She said: “I wanted to get her out because I felt she was more in danger in there than she was out.”
Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey said: “I will be expecting an early update from NHS Tayside on their investigation and the action they intend to take.”
The minister said Mr Strang’s appointment marked the independent inquiry’s “first key milestone” for families.
She said: “I also note NHS Tayside has today appointed Prof Keith Matthews as a new associate medical director for mental health services.
“His background and clinical leadership will play an important part in working to transform mental health services across the region.”
NHS staff have been offered counselling to cope with the trauma of watching a BBC documentary criticising an under-fire mental health unit.
Experts have been put on standby to support doctors and nurses at the Carseview Centre, in Dundee , who may be adversely affected by the hard-hitting programme.
Last night relatives of young patients who either committed suicide or were bullied at the unit reacted furiously to the decision
One mum told us: “It’s one rule for one and one rule for another – what about support and counselling for relatives and family of those who died or were bullied there? There’s nothing for the real victims.”
The BBC Scotland programme – that aired last night – interviewed patients who alleged they’d been pinned to the floor and bullied on wards where illegal drugs were rife.
They claimed Carseview staff used face-down restraints violently and repeatedly over the past five years.
The centre has about 80 beds and is the biggest mental health unit in Tayside treating hundreds of patients every year.
It is the subject of an independent inquiry into mental health services after families of suicide victims campaigned for changes.
Last week NHS bosses sent an email offering support to any staff affected by the programme.
It said: “The BBC has advised us that they have spoken to 29 patients and families and the programme will contain patient testimonies which allege bullying, inappropriate use of restraint and widespread use and sale of illegal drugs.
“This is obviously going to be an upsetting time for staff and so the Mental Health Leadership team, along with staff side representatives, will be meeting with staff at Carseview over the coming days to discuss the programme and offer support to anyone who may be affected by this.”
It added that an expert from the Wellbeing Centre at the city’s Royal Victoria Hospital, would also be on hand to offer any “additional” support.
But last night Mandy McLaren and Jackie Hawes – whose sons Dale and Harry committed suicide while being treated by Carseview – demanded to know why victims’ relatives weren’t offered help.
Mandy said: “There has been nothing whatsoever for the families from NHS Tayside. All they’ve done is say sorry, pay expensive lawyers to defend FAIs and let us get on with it. Start doing your jobs properly and sort these issues out.”
While Jackie added: “We’ve had no support since Harry died, we’ve just been left to get on with it. It’s not fair. It’s fine to support the staff, but offer help to the grieving families too. “
Dundee has the worst suicide rate in mainland Scotland for the second year in a row.
Official figures published revealed 32 people killed themselves in the city last year, while there was a big rise in Fife.
A campaigner whose son took his own life said the suffering will only ease with major improvements to NHS Tayside’s under-fire mental health services.
Last year’s suicide toll is a slight improvement on 2016, when 37 people committed suicide in Dundee.
In Fife, the number surged by 20% in a year to 52 deaths, although that is down on the 68 in 2011.
There were 21 suicide fatalities recorded in Perth & Kinross in 2017, the third year in a row the figure has risen.
Dundee mum Mandy McLaren lost her son Dale Thomson in 2011 when he was just 28. He did just four days after Carseview professionals said he did not need to be detained.
The then Health Secretary Shona Robison announced in February that an independent review will be held into the Tayside facility.
Responding to the latest suicide figures, Ms McLaren said: “If it’s true what they said that the review is going to be totally independent and they listen to what families like mine are saying then it can make a big difference.
“The doctors at Carseview just do not listen and until that changes, until they start listening to the families, the GPs and patients then nothing is going to change and we will still see people dying.”
She said high number of suicides could be because “Dundee’s not got much going for it for work, especially for young people”.
James Jopling, from the Samaritans in Scotland, said: “Whilst we need to be cautious about a one-year increase in deaths and look at the longer term trend, the rise in deaths in Fife should be seen as a warning sign.”
Anas Sarwar, the Labour MSP, said: “More must be done to promote suicide prevention and that begins by ensuring we have mental health services that are fit for use.
“This is why Labour fought for an independent review into poor mental health services in NHS Tayside after the tragic case of David Ramsay, who took his own life after being rejected twice for treatment by the health board, came to light.”
Mr Ramsay was found dead at Templeton Woods in Dundee in October 2016 following a mental breakdown.
There were 680 deaths recorded as probable suicides across Scotland in 2017, down 7% from 2016.
Orkney had the highest suicide rate (0.23 deaths per 1,000 residents), compared with Dundee (0.22), Fife (0.14), Perth & Kinross (0.14), Angus (0.08) and Scotland (0.01).
A Scottish Government spokesman said they will soon publish a suicide prevention action plan.
“Any suicide is a tragedy and our sympathies go out to anyone who has lost a loved one this way,” the spokesman added.
“Suicide is a complex phenomenon with a wide range of factors.
“However, the very strong downward trend of 20% in Scotland’s suicide rate over the period 2002/2006 to 2013/2017 is encouraging and is testament to the hard work of all those in the suicide prevention field.”
A football match and lunch held in memory of a tragic Dundee dad has helped raise more than £3,000 for a mental health charity.
Friends and family of Lee Welsh descended on North End Park for a game in his memory.
The 27-year-old was found dead last year at his home on Peddie Street.
More than £1,000 was raised for the Dundee Association of Mental Health (DAMH) at the game on Saturday in addition to money generated from a soup and pudding lunch held the week previous.
The event was organised by Lee’s childhood friend, Steve Martin, 27. The pair played football for Fairmuir Boys and about 30 of Lee’s pals formed two teams for the game.
Lee’s dad Phil – who has actively raised awareness about mental health issues among young people since his son’s death – was thrilled with the turnout and the money raised. He said: “It really was an absolutely brilliant day. At first we were thinking ‘are people going to come along’ but the support was fantastic.
“It was a positive day, not a negative day and it’s important for us to keep raising awareness that we desperately need a crisis centre in Dundee.
“I’d like to thank everyone who came out and contributed to the day.
“Dundee North End were absolutely fantastic with us, they laid on food and their facilities and gave us a whack of money.
“We’re still to total everything up but it looks like we’re over the £3,000 mark which is brilliant.
“We’re looking to see if we can try and do this on an annual basis.
“It’s all about looking to the future now in raising money for the mental health charities and if we do get a crisis centre then we will be hoping to raise money for that.
“The whole day was great and it just shows you what you can achieve when you get people together.”