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NHS bosses destroy careers of whistleblowers who stand up to protect patients’ lives

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Forty of the medics said the result of their whistleblowing was that their employer took no positive action to address patient safety concerns; 36 said patients were still at risk in their place of work; 19 said trusts covered up the problem and 10 said they denied there was a problem. Nine said that action taken was too perfunctory, two said that partial positive action was taken. Only one said that the issue was fully resolved.

Of those who wished to disclose their current employment status, seven doctors who previously had substantive roles now can only get work as locums, two work wholly in private practice, six are unemployed and looking for work, three are registered disabled or too sick to work, two took early retirement and one works outside of medicine.

Whistleblowers’ representatives want the Government to require hospitals to bring in an independent medical professional to assess the merit of claims, so that NHS managers are not able to “mark their own homework”.

They also want the Government to make it illegal to suspend or exclude doctors from work for speaking out about patient safety.

Meanwhile, Dr Naru Narayanan, president of HCSA, the hospital doctors’ union, called for the establishment of an independent statutory national whistleblowing body, outside of the NHS, to register protected disclosures and protect individuals against recriminations. 

He said: “There also needs to be a new criminal offence of causing detriment to people who have spoken up, so those who put reputation before patients are punished for it.”

The Government and the NHS have failed to get a grip on the problem despite decades of warnings about the way whistleblowers are treated. As long ago as the 1990s, the consultant who exposed excess deaths of babies at the Bristol Royal Infirmary had to immigrate to Australia to find work after being snubbed by the NHS, while 15 years ago a nurse who tried to raise concerns about avoidable deaths at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust said managers encouraged a culture of bullying and threats towards whistleblowers.