A health board is recruiting cardiac surgery trainers after an internal review, which was prompted by issues said to include bullying allegations.
Cardiff and Vale University Health Board has taken action after concerns were raised about staff not treating each other with respect at the University Hospital of Wales’ cardiothoracic department.
A source told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that bullying claims were made by cardiac surgery trainees.
The health board undertook an internal review, and workforce group, Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW), visited the cardiothoracic department in December.
HEIW postgraduate medical dean, Professor Tom Lawson, said it found high-quality training in some areas but a need for improvement in others.
“There has been considerable disruption to cardiothoracic services during the pandemic, which has impacted on training particularly in cardiac surgery,” he said.
“Trainees are having a positive training experience in thoracic surgery, but improvement is needed in cardiac surgery.”
Cardiothoracic surgeons operate on the heart, lungs and other thoracic – or chest – organs.
Prof Lawson said HEIW was working with the health board to increase the number of cardiac surgery trainers and improve “the involvement of trainees in the local education governance processes”.
He added that HEIW was satisfied with an action plan produced by the health board.
It was critical, he said, that trainees had a positive training experience.
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The issues had been raised in survey by the General Medical Council.
The survey asked if respondents at University Hospital of Wales’s cardiothoracic department agreed with the statement that staff, including trainees, always treated each other with respect. Everyone who responded disagreed. A majority of respondents also said they disagreed with the statement that staff, including trainees, were always treated fairly. A third of respondents neither agreed nor disagreed with the statement that the working environment was a fully supportive one, but two-thirds agreed with it.
A health board spokeswoman said its action plan was “robust”, with areas of improvement including trainer recruitment. She said the health board was continuing to work with HEIW to address concerns.
“We have a stringent freedom to speak up process for staff to raise any concerns with the knowledge that action will be taken as a result,” said the spokeswoman.
But the health board didn’t say, when asked, if any trainers had been removed.
Simon Kendall, who is president of the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery, wrote in a society bulletin in January that cardiothoracic surgeons included “the most able, intelligent, hard-working” of people, and were admired by surgeons in other specialties.
But he said team-working in many cardiothoracic units in Britain and Ireland was an issue due to five main themes, including personality clashes, structural problems and a lack of communication.
Middlesbrough-based Mr Kendall – a cardiac surgeon – said it was time to intervene when “poor interactions” were observed. By ignoring them, he said, “we are inadvertently making them acceptable”.
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