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Whistleblower disgusted at ‘lack of cleanliness and security’ at Devon hospital

The employee has spoken exclusively to Devon Live about some of the things he's found

A whistleblower at a Devon hospital has said they are “absolutely disgusted” with the standards of cleanliness and security operated by a third party contractor.

Pictures taken by an anonymous hospital porter show piles of rubbish which have allegedly been there for months, as well as bags of confidential documents left unsupervised in public areas for hours.

The porter, who is employed by Sodexo at North Devon District Hospital, has also raised concerns about security after revealing that staff with no background checks are given keys and access codes to restrict medical areas.

The trust that runs the hospital and Sodexo say they are working together to investigate and resolve the issues, which they are taking very seriously.

But the porter believes they are only paying lip service to the problems and described their approach as “applying a plaster to a gunshot wound”.

The employee initially made a complaint through the hospital’s ‘Freedom to Speak Up’ service which allows staff to anonymously raise concerns about either patient safety of the quality of care.

But the porter decided to go public and bring their concerns to Devon Live after little was done to improve matters.

The employee said: “I worked for three months with no Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks, by which time I’d already had access to keys and security codes that allowed me into all the wards and the pharmacy.

“When I started they gave us this big talk about how security was key, but it just isn’t.”

The porter gave Devon Live, the two pictures below which he claims show rubbish piled up for months and confidential waste left out in a public area.

They said: “The picture of the rubbish shows waste in a wooden storage unit near Munro House where the nutrition department is.

“It has been like that since March, its absolutely disgusting. They only cleared it up this morning, which I assume is a result of my complaint.

“The other picture shows blue bags of confidential waste left out in a public area.

“These bags can contain anything from medical notes to drug records and things from the pharmacy – and they were right there where anyone could access them.

“This stuff happens on a daily basis and it is absolutely past the level of acceptability.”

Also contained within their complaint to the ‘Freedom to Speak Up’ service were concerns about the cleanliness of blood collection vehicles, a lack of basic hand washing, overflowing bins and litter left outside for weeks after waste collections.

The porter claimed there was also a very low level of morale among his colleagues and highlighted issues with management at Sodexo.

They said: “Morale among staff is at an all-time low.  Any suggestions from employees are shot down straight away, it’s so demoralising.

“A lot of the local Sodexo managers have been there a long time and know they will never get fired or lose their jobs.

“The attitude towards work there is really lax, no one is prepared to take responsibility – and if you spot something that needs doing, they will say ‘well you can do it if you want’.”

In July the Northern Devon Hospital NHS Trust (NDHT) extended Sodexo’s contract by three years – taking it to 26 years of partnership with the firm.

Sodexo, which employs about 300 people at the hospital, will now provide a range of facilities including catering, cleaning, portering, reception and security.

The whistleblower said their heart sank when the announcement was made.

They said: “The facilities manager talked about all the ‘great work’ that Sodexo does, but I just can’t see it.

“There are a lot of good people here doing good work, but they are being badly managed by people who have been here for years and just want to get by on the bare minimum.

“The only reason I reported it is because it is unacceptable to people who use the hospital.

“While they are trying to make a bit of an effort since my complaint, I think it’s like applying a plaster to a gunshot wound – standards will soon drop again when there’s no one watching.”

Angela Hibbard, director of finance, performance and facilities at Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “We are really pleased that our Freedom to Speak Up service provided a member of Sodexo staff with the opportunity to feedback their concerns.

“We take such concerns about the cleanliness of our hospital and safety of our patients extremely seriously.

“We are working closely with our partner Sodexo to investigate the issues raised this week and will implement the necessary changes to ensure the issues are resolved.”

A spokesperson for Sodexo said: “Cleanliness is a key priority for us and we take any complaints about our service seriously.

“We will be working with the trust to review and resolve the issues identified.”

Devon Live
Joel Cooper
5 SEP 2019