PATIENTS attending the Borders General Hospital audiology department have been exposed to "extremely poor standards of clinical practice", senior clinical staff have alleged.

In a damning letter sent to our sister paper, The Herald, the Head of Audiology at NHS Borders, Dawn Saunders, and two senior colleagues allege that a patient's eardrum was perforated "as a direct result of poor clinical practice".

She alleges that “the culture within NHS Borders is accepting of extremely poor standards of clinical practice that put vulnerable adults and children at risk every day".

Additional claims of poor practice include the unnecessary ordering of CT and MRI scans, errors in prescribing steroid tablets and injections and the inappropriate prescribing and fitting of medical devices to patients, including children.

Concerns about negligent practice are allegedly “not responded to appropriately” with “whistleblowers being subject to continuous victimisation and bullying by senior management in an attempt to silence concerns", the audiologists add.

Since raising their own concerns, the senior audiologists claim that they have “been subject to bullying and intimidation by senior management, including the inappropriate use of suspension and investigation".

Nicky Berry, Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals at NHS Borders, refuted the allegations that audiology patients are being put at risk.

She said: “We can confirm that there have been anonymous whistleblowing concerns raised about patient safety in the audiology department.

“We can confirm that in this case we immediately took external expert advice from senior audiologists from another Health Board who raised no immediate patient safety concerns.

“They did however highlight some areas where practice could be improved and that is moving forward.

“We are not putting our patients at risk.”

The allegations of malpractice, along with the apparent response to whistleblowing concerns, has prompted local MSP Christine Grahame to voice “great cause for concern”.

She added: “I am raising the concerns about the diagnosis and treatment of one patient and the repercussions felt by the whistleblowers directly with the Scottish Government, to ensure they are fully and properly investigated.

“The alleged failure to maintain professional standards is worrying to say the least.

“This is compounded by apparently punishing the whistleblowers, one of whom has already been suspended for nine months pending a conduct investigation, only being referred to the disciplinary panel last week with vague details as to the nature of the allegations against her.”