Scotland and Whistleblowing

NHSreality takes the view that since morale is so low, no internal assessment of a whistleblower is possible. Cultural change needs to come quickly, and the start of this is meaningful “exit interviews” by an independent HR company. This company should report in general publically, for a Region, but specifically, in private to Health Boards. Copies of reports should go to the Minister concerned, and should be released once they are not embarrassing to individuals concerned. Incognito exit interviews could then be possible, and done for all staff moving or leaving posts; in particular juniors. I have delayed this post for 3 months hoping there would be some good news follow up… Post will be updated if there is. Some “good news” – Hywel Dda Trust in West Wales have told the consultants that they will initiate exit interviews. At least they are recognising their importance – now they need to recognise the barriers to speaking honestly to their own HR, especially for those moving post within the Trust, but even for those at retirement. The Health Services are on fire… Interesting that the problem has been deferred to the Health and Sports committee… reminds me of “turfing”, or passing the buck in the House of God. (Sam Shemm 1978)

Update 15th March 2017 from 17th Feb 2017:

Hello, If you want to read the transcript of the Petitions Committee meeting where MSP’s quiz Edinburgh Council, Public Concern at Work (PCAW) and Unison on whistleblowing read it here and you can see the video here which last 45 minutes. The Council scheme comes over as having overcome the culture of fear around when I worked there and contrasts hugely with NHS arrangements. The Council reps pointed out that they’d had 53 reports in the 3 years since it was introduced compared to only 3 disclosures over 8 years prior. PCAW said NHS Scotland needed better arrangements but disappointingly said nothing  about the shortcomings of Scotland’s Board Champions, who can’t take or deal with reports (even though I’ve heard they think this is a problem). Unison didn’t really say anything. The next landmark will be on 2nd March when the NHS Scotland Chief Executive, Paul Gray, is called to account.

Important news – the Scotsman reported that “the Parliamentary Health Committee has commenced an enquiry to investigate how the NHS deals with whistleblowers amid concerns there is a culture of fear which discourages staff from raising patient safety issues. NHS staff are to be asked for their views as part of the inquiry launched by MSPs on Holyrood’s health and sport committee.”
More details can be found on the Parliament website “Call for written views on Inquiry into NHS Governance – Creating a culture of improvement” at http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/103512.aspx The Committee is considering whether staff are managed in a fair and effective way.

 And on 5th March 2017:

Hello, The evidence submitted by the NHS Chief Executive, Paul Gray, to Petitions Committee on the 2nd March was underwhelming. The MSPs gave him an easy ride. You can view the 45 minute video here: http://www.scottishparliament.tv/20170302_public_pets?in=00:00:17&out=00:45:04 The transcription is here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10824

I was surprised that the Chair brought up grievances at the beginning, ignoring the fact that staff only bring grievances after they feel they have been unfairly treated. Why did she not ask not ask directly for views on the petition? Indeed, it felt as if they’d rehearsed the whole discussion beforehand. There were no questions as to the efficacy of the whistleblowing champions – in having no staff-facing role, with no means to knowing how many (and when) concerns were raised.  At no point did the well-known victimised whistleblowers at Aberdeen, Forth Valley, Ayrshire & Arran and Lothian get a mention, and how they could have been better protected- and no mention of Robert Francis’s recommendations. The only point at which any MSP acknowledged they’d read any of the submissions was when Paul Gray was quizzed about the falling number of helpline calls – to which the Chief Exec answered that the “bottled-up” frustrations in 2013 had created a “spike” – and also, due to ongoing improvements, staff had less need – so there was little, on an ongoing basis, to worry about. There were no references by the MSPs to the staff survey showing fear at speaking up and no calls for it to be run again. Whilst it was acknowledged that an independent whistleblowing officer would be good, it sounded like another consultation was  likely in August – (although they already consulted on this a couple of years ago, so maybe this would be the precursor to a Parliamentary Bill).

Interestingly, the Scotsman managed to make the evidence look newsworthy- see “Health staff fear consequences of whistle-blowing, NHS Scotland chief tells MSPs” here.

Anyway, the Petitions Committee concluded that they would now refer the petition onto the Health & Sports Committee for consideration. We can only hope that they seriously consider what the petition proposes. At no stage did the Petitions Committee express a view on the petition. Sigh.

Thus my petition has followed its course. If it is to go anywhere now, that will depend if the Health Committee. Let’s hope they’ll really discuss the subject properly.

They are currently conducting an inquiry into NHS Governance – Creating a culture of improvement. Whistleblowing fits well. The call for evidence has another 9 days to go – please send something in if you can; I know a few of you have– you can do it confidentially, if you wish.

So I won’t be sending you any more “Update” emails, unless you want updates on the Health Committee’s conclusions. If you would like that, please let me know.

You can submit your evidence openly, anonymously or confidentially. But you only have until the 15th March, just four weeks, to do so. I’ll be writing in – hope any of you at the NHS (either past or present) with views will do too. This represents a real opportunity to call for change.

 

Peter Gregson wrote 4th December 2016:

The Petitions Committee considered the petition again on 24th Nov. The official (verbatim) report is here: https://shar.es/18jO8j

You can view their 6-minute deliberation on the webcast at http://www.scottishparliament.tv/Search/Index/1548bdac-8fee-42b8-8e00-d890656e9e1a – it starts 52mins 34 seconds in and runs onto 58.05. In a nutshell, the Committee now wants to hear from the Chief Exec of NHS Scotland and “representatives of whistleblower organisations”. They suggested the unions, especially Unison. The minute  of the meeting states “The Committee agreed to invite the Chief Executive of NHS Scotland and other relevant stakeholders including the City of Edinburgh Council, Public Concern at Work and trade unions, to provide oral evidence at a future meeting.”

I immediately wrote to the Chair of the Committee and the other four MSPs, suggesting that I could assist with whistleblowing organisations, individual whistleblowers (Rab Wilson, ex-nurse, of Ayrshire & Arran has offered) and asking they try again to contact the English Health trusts (there are 3 in all). No response yet.

I subsequently did some searching and found Whistleblowers UK who assist whistleblowers and give support at tribunals. They have been around a bit more than a year and their website is at http://www.wbuk.org/. They have a helpline for whistleblowers (and no – it isn’t like PCAW at all!). I spoke with their chief exec and she may be able to come up from London to the Scottish Parliament, or send in a submission.

A Scottish whistleblower has been in touch with me saying that if evidence could be taken with the webcam switched off, then they would like to attend to speak to Committee. If any of you feel the same way, please let me know and I will relay this to Johann Lamont.

If you have time, you might like to read the 10 submissions that have come in from Scottish NHS chief execs on the Parliament website here. Only one institution has been positive- the City of Edinburgh Council – and there is a negative one from Unison. A reversal of fortunes from three years ago, when each of these body’s positions were the opposite of what they are now, when I last petitioned for a hotline for local authority staff.

I urge you to read the Edinburgh Council submission that shows how their hotline actually works and the difference it makes- the link is here (I had also petitioned them too, back in 2013). I was also pleased Dr Peter Gordon wrote in – the support of clinicians is key to securing change. Finally, my comment on all the submissions was published as well (Petitioner letter of 9th Nov).

I think the Petitions Committee will revisit the petition with the NHS Chief Exec, probably in late January. I think that will be a very telling meeting – I’ll keep you posted.

 Other news- my FOI to Grampian Health Board on the costs of Professor Krukowski’s treatment has been refused again (see their response here ) so I have now submitted an appeal to the Information Commissioner.

Other news is that on 22nd Oct at their conference, the Scottish Green party adopted this motion, thanks to one of our campaigners:

The Trade Union Group conference identified that existing policy is not clear about the role of trade union representatives on boards. Experience has shown that partnership working between trade unions and management, for example on Health Boards, can be used to incorporate unions into the agenda of management. This motion is supported by SGP TUG.

 …For publicly funded bodies (such as the NHS, local authorities, education institutions, etc.), which have a distinct and particular responsibility to protect employees and those using the services they provide, such measures should include the establishment of a whistleblowing hotline, independently managed by an organisation invested with powers of investigation and disciplinary powers will provide an additional mechanism to ensure good practice is adhered to and wrongdoing is addressed.” 

Best wishes

Pete Gregson

www.kidsnotsuits.com/nhs-staff-whistleblower-hotline-parliamentary-petition/

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This entry was posted in A Personal View, Gagging, NHS managers, Stories in the Media, Trust Board Directors on by .

About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

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