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NHS whistleblowers: We lost jobs after reporting patient deaths

More than 50 NHS whistleblowers claim to have lost their jobs—with some driven to the brink of suicide—after standing up to protect patients’ lives as bosses bury their concerns.

The group of doctors and nurses said that they had been targeted after raising concerns about more than 170 patient deaths and nearly 700 cases of poor care.

One consultant said that it was the “biggest scandal within our country” and claimed the true number of avoidable deaths was “astronomical”. Instead of addressing the problems, the whistleblowers claim that NHS bosses are spending millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on hiring law firms and private investigators to investigate them instead.

Last year Rob Behrens, the health ombudsman, warned The Times Health Commission that patient safety was at risk due to “toxic” and hierarchical behaviour among NHS doctors. Professor Phil Banfield, the chairman of the council of the British Medical Association, which represents doctors, wrote in The Daily Telegraph that whistleblowing “is not welcomed by NHS management… NHS trusts and senior managers are more concerned with protecting personal and organisational reputations than they are with protecting patients.”

In one case, the NHS spent more than £4 million on legal action against a single whistleblower, which included £3.2 million in compensation. Among the clinicians interviewed, 40 said that their employer took “no positive action” to address patient safety concerns; 36 said that patients remained at risk at their place of work; 19 said that NHS trusts covered up the problems, and ten said that their employers had denied there was a problem.

Whistleblowers’ representatives are urging the government to require independent medical assessments for claims and to ban the suspension or exclusion of doctors for speaking out about patient safety.

Dr Naru Narayanan, president of the hospital doctors’ union, has called for an independent national whistleblowing body outside of the NHS to register protected disclosures and protect individuals against recriminations. The Times Health Commission recommended that a no-blame compensation scheme should be introduced for medical errors, with settlements determined according to need. Backed by Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, the scheme would help end the deadly cycle of NHS scandals and cover-ups and ensure families receive timely support.

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: The Times, 15 May 2024


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