Four doctors have criticised the “breakdown of trust” at a hospital that asked staff for fingerprints to try to find the identity of a whistleblower.
Jon Warby received an anonymous letter about failings in his wife’s care at West Suffolk Hospital after she died there in August 2018.
A government review is being held into whistleblowing at the hospital.
The hospital said it had apologised to staff involved and it had begun a review of its “culture and openness”.
Mrs Warby died five weeks after bowel surgery in which there was a series of errors, it was heard at an inquest, which has been adjourned.
The 57-year-old mother of two was given glucose instead of saline through an arterial line in one operation, suffered a punctured lung during another and a week later contracted a fungal infection.
A letter was received by her husband two months later saying questions about a particular doctor should be raised.
The hospital was accused of conducting a “witch-hunt” after it asked staff for fingerprints and handwriting samples in an attempt to find the letter’s author.
‘I wish somebody came forward and told me’
Lucy Wheatley’s mum Sheila Coley died at West Suffolk Hospital three years ago.
Ms Coley fell out of her hospital bed, which eventually led to her death.
It had not been picked up that she had been on medication that increased the risk of falls.
Before the inquest into her mother’s death, Ms Wheatley said she felt she had to try to track down a member of staff who no longer worked at the hospital.
“She was the key to unlocking what had happened that night,” she said.
“She made it clear on oath that she was completely unaware that my mum had been medicated, they were so understaffed that night, that she had asked for help but the entire hospital was at a staffing deficit.”
Ms Wheatley added: “You know I wish somebody had come forward and told me what had happened to my mum before the inquest.
“It took over a year before me and my dad got any of the answers we needed.”
West Suffolk Hospital apologised and said it had since brought in measures to reduce falls.
Following the Department of Health and Social Care’s request for a review, Dr Rinesh Parmar from the Doctors’ Association has shared views from four doctors with the BBC.
They said the atmosphere at the hospital was “still tense” and “not a lot of learning has happened”.
There was a general feeling among staff that the “external investigation is going to take too long and may not lead to a change in the senior management team responsible”, they said.
It was claimed a senior member of management told staff “nothing different would be done in the future if the same situation was to occur”.
“There seems to be a disconnect between us and senior management,” the Doctors’ Association was told.
“This has all just led to a breakdown of trust.”
West Suffolk Hospital said a serious incident investigation had already begun and the family had been informed before the letter was sent.
As a result, it said confidential patient information was “accessed and shared inappropriately, causing distress to a patient’s family” and an investigation into that data breach was held.
However, it said it was “determined to make sure we learn, and create an environment where everyone has an opportunity to contribute freely and play a full part in our improvement”.
You can watch the full story on BBC Inside Out East at 19:30 GMT on BBC One, and afterwards on BBC iPlayer.