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NHS Trust chairman asked to quit over racial remark

He was asked to quit after he said nurses from India and Philippines "kill more people than they save", reports Nabanita Sircar.

india Updated: Mar 31, 2004 20:44 IST
Nabanita Sircar
Nabanita Sircar

The NHS has been employing a growing number of nurses from countries like India and the Philippines through agencies, but the chairman of an NHS Trust faced calls for his resignation on Thursday after saying that agency nurses "kill more people than they save".

Barrie Blower made the comments while talking to the daughter of a patient who had died from lung cancer. He now says that he may be forced out of his job.
Tracy Davies, 42, took an appointment with Blower after her mother, Sally Sargent, died at Walsall Manor Hospital inWest Midlands last December.

Concerned about the level of care her mother received Davies met Blower. She secretly recorded the conversation to ensure that the NHS Trust did not retract any statement later.

During the meeting Blower told her: "It's an awful set-up. We advertise in the Philippines and in India to attract nurses to be attached to the hospital to try and get rid of these agency people."

"They kill more people than they bloody save, these do. It's an awful bloody set-up but we've got to have them."

His comments have been condemned as being racist and demands for his resignation have been raised. Pete Lowe, regional officer for Unison, which represents the majority of nurses working within the NHS, said: "If Blower has made this statement then I see no other option than for him to resign. Further, if the board decides to back him then I see that as an inference that they support his views."

"It is a disgraceful situation that he should label any group of people in such a manner. If there are any difficulties with any particular group of nurses it is a direct result of a lack of training, a lack of induction and a lack of staff working on the wards."

Davies from Birmingham, said she was shocked that a person in such a position would make such a comment. "I was quite shocked" Davies said. "He was very negative on the use of agency staff altogether, not just on the caring side."

Blower has apologised for any offence caused by his comment but added:"It wasn't a literal statement. It was in the middle of a very long and difficult conversation with Davies."

"What I was trying to say in a very emphatic way, and obviously my choice of words wasn't very good, was that hospitals really survive on having direct labour. The nursing staff employed directly know the patients, they understand the patients' needs. On occasions when we fetch in agency staff, their care cannot be as strong and as good as that of our direct nurses."

He said he had sent a written apology to all staff and would ask the board for support. The trust on Wednesday ordered an investigation into the numbers of incidents relating to agency nurses compared to those involving permanent members of staff.

Sue James, chief executive, said: "I want to have the evidence to demonstrate that our patients can have every confidence in the care we offer, regardless of what type of nurse actually provides it."

First Published: Mar 19, 2004 20:57 IST