HR director praises hospital’s care for staff after radiation poisoning

The HR director at the hospital where former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko died last November has praised his organisation’s response to the incident.

Litvinenko’s body was found to have a fatal dose of the radioactive isotope polonium-210. Police are treating his death as murder.

David Amos, director of workforce at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said the incident had involved “huge HR issues”.

“Given the nature of the incident, many staff, not just those directly involved, had health concerns,” he told Personnel Today. “We had to make sure patients were reassured, through to managing the morale and motivation of all our staff.”

About 80 workers at University College Hospital were tested for traces of radiation after coming into contact with Litvinenko. The tests involved analysing clothing as well as urine samples for signs of contamination.

“We did our best to reassure staff they were not in danger,” Amos said.

“The hospital was particularly successful in engaging both doctors and scientists with staff to explain what the situation meant for them,” he added.

The case attracted huge media interest worldwide and led to scores of journalists camping outside the central London hospital.

“We had to keep a regular flow of information to the journalists outside,” Amos said. “That was important in keeping any media storm under control.”

He said a good barometer of how well the organisation coped was that none of the 2,300 nurses employed at the hospital contacted their union, the Royal College of Nursing, about any concerns during or after the incident.

NHS’ leaked workforce draft provokes outrage

New director-general of workforce at the Department of Health (DoH), Clare Chapman, had barely got her feet under her desk in Whitehall when more bad news about the NHS hit the headlines.

A leaked draft workforce strategy document, which forecast a shortage of nurses, too many consultants and the deliberate use of unemployment to create downward pressure on wages, provoked outrage from health professionals.

UCL Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust director of workforce, David Amos, said there should be “a measure of calm” about the workforce situation in the NHS. But he did call on the DoH to stop trying to micro-manage hundreds of employers across the health service.

However, another senior NHS HR director told Personnel Today that the leak was “pretty embarrassing” for the DoH. The document confirms these issues are being considered quite seriously at departmental level, the HR director added.


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