We’re going to start off simply. We’d like a Health Select Committee Review on Whistleblowing. This isn’t our idea – many whistleblowers have campaigned for this over the years – but the failure of the government to follow up on its June 2010 pledge to strengthen the protection for whistleblowers means that the HSC should now look into this as a matter of urgency. We need proper consultation and enforceable solutions.
This page will be updated as our positive ideas develop. Version 2 below.
We think the following should be considered:
1 An end to all gagging clauses of any sort in the NHS and the protection of a clinician’s professional right to free speech, including the right to go external to the trust and raise concerns with an MP.
2 A possible statutory duty to investigate and publish the investigation once whistleblowing concerns are raised. It cannot be right that the report is “owned” by the trust, and such secrecy allows the whistleblower to be persecuted. The Royal Colleges should also publish the report they are asked to produce. The only investigation of whistleblower’s concerns at the moment is via the proxy of suing in the employment court – but this only enriches lawyers, is a dreary business, and lawyers are sometimes poor investigators (especially in medically or surgically complex cases).
3. A compulsory duty of candour so that patients and relatives are told promptly and compassionately when harm has occurred, irrespective of the cause.
4. A compulsory duty to both blow the whistle and – for those in authority – act on it. Voluntary just doesn’t work. The aim should always be wherever possible to speak up and prevent harm. Bill Cash MP has suggested a law that would allow for the removal of an NHS Chairman by politicians if it can be proved he/she was appraised of safety concerns but failed to act.
5. An NHS redress fund that gives patients swift and proportionate compensation when they’ve been harmed by healthcare, irrespective of the cause
6. Continuation of legal aid for clinical negligence claims for those who want to take it further. Most people who receive a prompt, kind apology and explanation don’t.
7. Training and support for NHS staff in how to have these difficult consultations – blowing the whistle, responding to a whistleblower, telling a patient they’ve been harmed by care etc
8. Real time monitoring of patient harm on a ward by ward/ practice by practice basis that everyone can contribute to (staff, patients, relatives) and can take pride in reducing. Safety has to be tackled on the ground, in the now, in teams with the cooperation of staff and NHS users.
9. A truly independent medical inspectorate (similar to the Rail and Airline Industries), staffed by experts that go in hard and fast to investigate all unexpected deaths or cases of serious harm and publish the results swiftly for the regulators to consider. At the moment SUI’s are reported to the Board (and should appear in minutes) but are internally investigated.
10. If you win as an NHS whistleblower, the Trust should pay your legal costs, as it’s in the public interest. At present, whistleblowers can win in court and be crippled with legal costs.
11. A National Whistleblower Centre in the UK, similar to the US. http://www.whistleblowers.org/ Whistleblowers deserve proper advocacy. At the moment, many of them try doing it themselves and are crushed by NHS Trusts with huge legal teams funded out of public money. They also need counselling and career support.
Please add your comments and suggestions.