WORKFORCE: Consultants at a hospital provider have called for an external review of recent disciplinary actions and acknowledged allegations of racial bias in the organisation.

The medical staff committee at Heatherwood and Wexham Park Foundation Trust this week published an open letter to the Care Quality Commission, Monitor, commissioners and trust leaders.

The letter was drafted following a discussion between 120 consultants about “recent adverse press coverage”. It follows stories in the Mail on Sunday giving details of historic failures of care and soured relationships between clinicians, including allegations of racial and ethnic divisions.

The statement acknowledged that there were a “very small” number of incidents involving the conduct and capability of senior doctors.

“However”, it said, “there is clearly a feeling amongst a large number of consultants that some recent incidents have resulted in an unduly low threshold for disciplinary action”.

“A few of these consultants feel some disciplinary processes have been biased on racial grounds, but the overwhelming majority of consultants feel that there is no such racial bias,” it added.

“All agree that there should be prompt and senior external review of all these cases.”

The letter also said: “All of the trust’s consultants feel extremely upset and aggrieved at being portrayed as racist in the national media”. It went on to emphasise the multicultural nature of the trust’s staff and the community it serves.

The statement was accompanied by a separate open letter, signed by 31 consultants who have recently joined Heatherwood and Wexham Park. This second document expressed “overwhelming support” for the trust. “Together we have pledged to provide the highest quality of care for our local community”, it said.

“We now feel it is time to move on and work together to focus and develop the areas that require improvement and showcase the excellent services already present, of which our staff and patients can rightly be proud.”

The trust said it published both letters “to reassure patients, the public and referrers that the trust’s consultants are focused on providing high quality services to our community”.

The newspaper alleged some consultants had written to regulators claiming racial bias in the trust’s use of disciplinary action. Monitor has confirmed it has received a letter from letter from consultants and is “investigating the issues raised”.

An external review of the trust’s general surgery team published in September found that in 2004 Mr Anil Desai, a whistleblower who had been wrongly labelled “vexatious” by the trust, lost an employment tribunal after alleging discrimination.