November 21 2023

Whistleblowing, gagging clauses and the NHS

Whistleblowing, gagging clauses and the NHS

Whistle blowers in the NHS should be ‘championed’ and not served with gagging clauses, argued the doctor who blew the whistle on the inadequacies of the department in which Baby P was failed. Dr Kim Holt was speaking at the launch of Patients First comprising whistleblowers from within the NHS and set up ‘to lobby the UK Government to create policies and laws that ensure the NHS becomes more open and accountable’.

You can read Dr Holt’s comments HERE.

In Dr Holt’s own case, she refused a £120,000 gagging clause in the wake of Baby P’s death and has now been reinstated as a paediatrician under new hospital management. Dr Holt announced that the group has launched legal action against Ealing Hospital NHS Trust and South London Healthcare NHS Trust.

  • You can read Dr David Drew’s about blowing the whistle in the NHS HERE. Dr Drew was recently dismissed after 37 years as NHS paediatrician for gross misconduct and insubordination. You can find out more HERE on the Medical Harm web site.
  • If you want to find out more about whistleblowing and your rights under the UK’s whistleblowing law, the Public Interest Disclosure Act see the Public Concern at Work guide.

Dr David Drew: ‘I believe that those of us who have suffered detriment including suspension, dismissal, financial and reputational loss have a right to ask a simple question. Why when we have done all we can to safeguard our patients’ interests, recognising the risks in doing that, are we punished while other professionals – cautious about their reputations, careers, and mortgages – continue without even a hint of criticism?’

The Law firm Leigh Day & Co has asked both Ealing Hospital NHS Trust and South London Healthcare NHS Trust to provide a range of evidence in relation to their policies on whistleblowing, including what steps they have taken in the last 12 months to ‘audit, review and refresh’ their approach to whistleblowing as required by Department of Health guidance. The legal action details specific instances where Ealing and South London Healthcare Trusts have been found lacking in relation to whistleblowers and that both Ealing Hospital NHS Trust and South London Healthcare NHS Trust have failed, and are failing, to comply with their duties under the Department of Health Guidance.

Speaking at the Patients First Dr Kim Holt said: ‘There is a real need to change the culture of the NHS to one of openness and transparency and not one where the truth is often hidden and employment laws mis-used to silence critics. Whistle blowing should be actively encouraged within the NHS. As the evidence given to the Mid Staffordshire inquiry from people too scared to raise concerns showed, without the ‘safety valve’ provided through an effective whistleblowing procedure patients may be harmed or even killed.’

  • A recent poll of more than 3,000 nurses for the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) found nothing was done when fears were raised about issues including patient safety and too few staff on duty.
  • More than a third of nurses (34%) said they have been discouraged or told directly not to report their concerns about quality of care. Some 73% said managers had told them not to speak up, while 24% said work colleagues had said it was a bad idea.