PRIOR to commencing our roles at NHS Borders, my colleagues and myself had all worked across several other NHS boards including NHS Glasgow and Clyde, NHS Lothian and NHS Fife.

We have more than 30 years’ unblemished clinical/leadership experience between us, were all trained to exemplary standards within our respected health boards and accustomed to working within patient-centred environments where standards of care were paramount and feedback was both respected and welcomed.

NHS Borders in comparison is a complete paradox. The culture within NHS Borders is accepting of extremely poor standards of clinical practice that put vulnerable adults and children at risk every day.

Criticism in terms of current ways of working, the management of either performance or conduct, including issues pertaining to clinical negligence, are not responded to appropriately with whistle-blowers being subject to continuous victimisation and bullying by senior management in an attempt to silence concerns and furthermore exit such employees from the organisation.

The turnover of employees within NHS Borders is significant, with those who are professionally competent and driven to achieve high standards leaving predominantly due to the recognition of the cultural barriers to change or as the result of being forced out through the inappropriate use of manage-ment power. Leadership experience is extremely poor across the organisation with senior managers having never previously dealt with either performance or conduct-related matters.

This results in a culture of utilising inappropriate and threatening behaviours to manage issues rather than appropriate mechanisms that support resolution.

In the case of my colleagues and myself we have raised numerous evidenced disclosures pertaining to clinical competence and subsequent patient risk over the past 18 months to no avail. This includes a specific incident of clinical negligence whereby a patient came to harm through having his ear drum perforated as the direct result of poor clinical practice.

Despite the organisation having accepted that there is an issue it has to date failed to address any of the matters identified within our complaints or implement any measures to reduce the risk to patients.

As whistle-blowers we have all been subject to bullying and intimidation by senior management including the inappropriate use of suspension and investigation, financial detriment, brand and reputational damage and breach of contract in terms of preventing us from executing our roles and fulfilling the terms of our professional registration. As matters currently stand we are in fear of our roles and furthermore for the health and wellbeing of others within the organisation who choose to speak out.

Dawn Saunders, Head of Service Audiology; Beverley Herne, Senior Audiologist; Sara Doggett, Senior Audiologist

c/o Borders General Hospital, Huntlyburn, Melrose.

FOLLOWING your article “Campaigners warn over ‘Frank’s Law’” (The Herald, March 30), I am keen to make clear that this extension is to ensure there is equality of treatment between adults under and over the age of 65.

Around 10,000 people under the age of 65 were receiving personal care in advance of the implementation date of April 1, 2019. Around a third already received their personal care free of charge due to their incomes and assets falling below the thresholds at which local authorities begin to charge. The introduction of Frank’s law means that everyone under 65 who needs personal care will now receive it for free.

In addition, the Scottish Government has estimated that up to an additional 3,000 people under 65, who currently do not receive personal care, could come forward following the extension.

The definition of free personal care is long established and has been in place since 2002 for those over 65. It continues to include help with washing, oral hygiene, problems with mobility, food preparation, assistance with dressing or getting in and out of bed. Other services may be chargeable, such as help with housework, laundry, shopping and services outside the home, such as day care centres.

We have provided local authorities with £30 million additional funding to extend free personal care to under 65s in 2019-20. This includes funding for those already receiving personal care and new people coming forward, as well as free personal care payments to self-funding residents in care homes and for the additional assessment costs which local authorities will incur as a result of the extension.

Our extension of free personal care will also ensure that no one is left out of pocket by the UK Government withdrawing the care elements of disability living allowance or the personal independence payment.

We have worked in close collaboration with Cosla on the preparation for the extension and will continue to work with local authorities to ensure effective monitoring of the impact on both the charges for non-personal elements of care for adults under the age of 65, including the cost to local authorities of the extension.

Jeane Freeman,

Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, St Andrew’s House, Regent Road, Edinburgh.