In Scotland the “whistleblower blast” is on 19th June, but there is no funding for the room Peter Gregson needs. For fundraising go here
He ends his message: “Please chuck in a few £. Then I’ll be able to afford to feed my children this month”. The petition is here
and the Scots are also looking at the Independent Contractor Model (GPs) after it has been cleaned out by understaffing and underfunding.
The health services are too proud and mean to contract out their human resources, but this is what is needed, along with a whole dose of repeated honesty, exit interviews, removal of targets, and giving the profession more powers over their own destiny..
The BMJ opines: Whistleblowers: promises of protection are repeatedly broken, meeting hears BMJ 2019;364:l1482
There has never been a more dangerous time for frontline NHS staff to consider speaking up in defence of patients, a consultant surgeon who lost his job after reporting concerns about an avoidable death has told a meeting on whistleblowing at the Royal Society of Medicine.
All three levels of supposed protection—the NHS itself, regulators, and the law—are failing whistleblowers, Peter Duffy said.
Duffy, who reported his worries to the Care Quality Commission in 2015, won his case for unfair constructive dismissal at an employment tribunal last July. He was awarded £102 000 (€120 000; $135 000), which related to a dispute over pay, not his disclosures.
He told the meeting, opened by the RSM’s president, Simon Wessely, that he had been forced to resign from University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust in 2016 “for my own protection” and was “unemployed and, it seemed, unemployable.”
Since 2017 he has worked outside the NHS as a consultant surgeon at a hospital on the Isle of Man, living alone, while his wife, family, and friends still live in the Morecambe Bay area. “It really does feel like being two years into a 10 year prison sentence,” he said.
His case showed, he added, that “we have NHS promises of whistleblower protection repeatedly broken, leaders who don’t show leadership, regulators who don’t regulate, guardians who don’t hold organisations to account, and a law which simply exposes whistleblowers to more hate, threats, intimidation, and allegations.”
He said that the law failed whistleblowers in at least three critical areas. First, the whistleblower was the one on trial, not the NHS trust and managers. Second, whistleblowers were “threatened with costs if they don’t drop the case.” Finally, for success in a claim of sacking on the ground of whistleblowing the law demanded an evidential link or “smoking gun” to link the whistleblowing and the sacking. “This evidential link is an almost impossible task, particularly with the NHS conducting a scorched earth policy to evidence right from the start,” said Duffy.
He advised potential whistleblowers, “If you speak up as a group, you are infinitely more powerful. My mistake was to go it alone.”
David Nicholl, consultant neurologist with Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, asked how far the NHS had come since the report of Robert Francis’s Freedom to Speak Up review in 2015.1 “Not very far,” he answered.
Nicholl said that one hopeful sign was that the CQC had fined Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in January for breach of the duty of candour because it had failed to tell a family within a reasonable time that there had been delays and missed opportunities in treating their baby, who had died.2
Peter Wilmshurst, consultant cardiologist at Royal Stoke University Hospital and a whistleblower who has reported several research misconduct cases to the General Medical Council, said that there was an inequality of arms because “the individual can never match the resources of the trust.” He added, “There are no effective sanctions for those who treat whistleblowers badly.”
Several speakers and delegates called for reform of the whistleblowing legislation the Public Interest Disclosure Act, which Duffy described as “full of loopholes.”
Nicholl said, “There are fundamental problems with the legislation. If there’s anything we can do to press on that, it’s absolutely vital.”
David Walker, medical director of the Morecambe Bay trust, said in a statement, “We strongly encourage staff to come forward if they think patients may be in any way at risk, so we can investigate and learn from any mistakes. He added that the concerns raised by Duffy had been thoroughly investigated at the time and that “the employment tribunal found there was no evidence that he was ill treated or suffered a detriment for raising those concerns.”