Concern as reporter gets job at hospital

SECURITY at one of the region's biggest hospitals has come under fire after an undercover BBC reporter was handed a job as a housekeeper.Shabnam Grewal was suspended from her position at the West Suffolk Hospital within hours of beginning her role on Wednesday, but the incident has provoked union representatives and community leaders to call for better checks to be placed on applicants to ensure patient safety.

SECURITY at one of the region's biggest hospitals has come under fire after an undercover BBC reporter was handed a job as a housekeeper.

Shabnam Grewal was suspended from her position at the West Suffolk Hospital within hours of beginning her role on Wednesday, but the incident has provoked union representatives and community leaders to call for better checks to be placed on applicants to ensure patient safety.

Health bosses say they followed all the correct procedures and took up two of Ms Grewal's references before she began working at the Bury St Edmunds unit, and yesterday condemned her behaviour as a waste of "valuable NHS time and resources".

But Richard Spring, MP for West Suffolk, described the incident as "curious," and urged the hospital to take more care when checking references.


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"We live in a very strange era and anybody in receipt of public money, such as the hospital, should be very careful to check references," he said. "This raises all sorts of questions. For example, what the reporter was doing in the hospital. Is there a particular problem which the public is not hearing about?

"I do not know what references were provided, but I do think the hospital must be careful not to take just one reference, and to investigate quite carefully."

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Applications forms for posts at the unit, which can be downloaded from the internet, request testimonials from current employers. A hospital spokesman said two of Ms Shabram's references had been checked – but neither he nor the BBC would reveal details of what the reporter had written on her application.

"It is amazing how these people get into these places," said Peggy Brame, a Unison shop steward at the hospital. "Agency and bank staff do eventually get checked out, but the fact is that we have to believe what they are telling us at the time.

"It takes a while until the checks come back, and you have to actually have some faith in people and believe they are telling the truth – although that may not always be the case.

"This could be, in some circumstances, quite dangerous, especially when dealing with sick and vulnerable people, but it says something for the hospital the fact that this woman was caught so quickly.

"The way to do it is not employ anybody until the police checks come back – but it is a balancing act as hospitals do need staff."

A spokesman for the hospital trust confirmed the woman took up the post on Wednesday as a housekeeper and had later been suspended.

"This woman has taken up valuable NHS time and resources and we totally condemn this type of behaviour," he said.

"We were suspicious before she joined us on account of the number and nature of the telephone inquiries she made and these suspicions were compounded by her behaviour on Wednesday.

"When challenged, she was unable to give a satisfactory response to our questions and was therefore suspended. Our understanding is that she was an undercover television reporter.

"The trust is confident that it followed all the correct procedures before appointing her as a housekeeper so that, for example, we interviewed her and took up two references."

A spokesman for the BBC said: "I can confirm that a BBC employee working for Panorama was exploring a possible health story at the West Suffolk Hospital on Wednesday."

The spokesman declined to comment further on the nature of the Panorama journalist's investigation or what she had written on her job application form.

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