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Blacklisting by the NHS...it never ends?

Steve Turner

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Way back in March I applied to re-join the NHS to help with COVID-19.

I am a mental health nurse prescriber with an unblemished clinical record. I have had an unusual career which includes working in senior management before returning to clinical work in 2002. I have also helped deliver several projects that achieved nation recognition, including one that was highly commented by NICE in 2015, and one that was presented at the NICE Annual Conference in 2018. Several examples of my work can be found on the NICE Shared Learning resource pages.

Since applying as an NHS returner. I have been interviewed online 6 times by 3 different organisations, all repeating the same questions. I was told that the area of work I felt best suited to working in - primary care/ community / mental health , specialising in prescribing and multi-morbidity - was in demand.

A reference has been taken up and my DBS check eventually came through. I also received several (mostly duplicated) emails. On 29th June I received a call from the acute trust in Cornwall about returning. I explained that I had specified community / primary care as I have no recent acute hospital experience. The caller said they would pass me over to NHS Kernow, an organisation I had mentioned in my application. I have heard nothing since.

I can only assume the backlisting I have suffered for speaking out for patients, is still in place. If this is true (and I am always open to being corrected) it is an appalling reflection on the NHS culture in my view.

Here is my story:




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Hi Steve, I suppose it’s impossible to know how such blacklisting works. Might there be patient safety focused HR people that could provide such insights (unattributably if needed)? Have you any contacts? Helen 

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Thanks Helen. This is such an emotive subject and people (staff and patients) are victimised & blacklisted for speaking out in subtle, and not so subtle, ways all the time.

I appreciate your reply. I wasn't expecting any. Maybe someone will comment anomyously. Also, I welcome criticism and questions on my views & experiences, that's how we can all learn.


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Hi Steve. I do not doubt what you are saying about blacklisting but if your sure about what you suspect have you considered going down the FOI request route?. I realise this means more emails etc but it could throw some light on your issues. Could I also say that is there anything genuinely wrong with your job applications. An example could be that you did not answer the questions correctly whether on paper or at interview. Its a mistake I have made several times and I am sure many others have as well and therefore they failed to secure a job

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Increasingly HR professionals are advising not to give references other than ‘worked here, role title, dates’ and only anodyne feedback from job applications. This protects the organisation from challenge but makes it very difficult to know whether a failed application is because there are better candidates out there or there is something more sinister going on. The whistleblowers that I have spoken with and read their books clearly feel that there are blacklists. Understandably, not many people would want to raise publicly, or attributably. We’d be happy to publish comments anonymously. It’s important to explore and expose these issues, as you do @Steve Turner 

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Good points Helen and Anton02. Thank you both.

I did raise an FOI on the CQC's role, which revealed that they had incorrectly dismissed my 2012 concerns as 'all third hand'. The CQC also said they had lost the report that they asked to be commissioned in response to my concerns. A report I never saw.

I think there's a lot more I could 'FOI'. I've chosen not to as it would take up so much time and probably be little help.

Most of the blacklisting I experienced is informal and can't be proven. In fact I could be wrong on some of it. The loss of a contract which I was awarded, and which was taken from me the day after the award without a valid reason being given, is a different matter. I chose not to take formal action on this as I didn't want to get involved in legal wrangling.

I've never applied for NHS employment since leaving Assertive Outreach in 2006 (except to apply help out short-term as a covid returner, without success). Fortunately I've been lucky as I had other alternatives. I do some teaching, and support 20 Community Pharmacies on Information Governance & do clinical assessment work.

It's been tough financially, but I don't regret my decision to leave and to speak out. After all, as I see it, I was just trying to do my job properly.

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@Steve Turner I think you raise important issues. We know well the very visible whistleblowing cases. But the ones that reinforce the power imbalance are more seditious - the quiet underhand reminders that if you speak up you’ll be performance managed; the suggestions that people want team players, not trouble makers; the threat of not getting a deserved reference; that someone will make sure there’s a quiet word spoken; that the organisation is more important than the customers; the banter about ‘not being like us’ etc. So difficult to prove. People shouldn’t have to be brave and take huge personal risks to do the right thing. How do we lift the lid? 

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Good question, I don't know. Some suggestions:

I tried setting up the Turn Up The Volume! movement and we held two sucessful national workshops. This, I believe, helped bring together the main themes, involve patients (who are often not involved in these type of  forums)  and link people together who would not have met otherwise. The workshops were attended by senior NHS people, and then shunned by the NHS. http://www.carerightnow.co.uk/turn-up-the-volume-resources-2/

I have been commissioned to conduct a few workshops on whistleblowing (looking at the situation for all angles and encouraging reflection) in NHS trusts, and once in a University. They were well received locally.

The NHS Whsitleblowing Support Scheme commissioned a study by Liverpool John Moores University in 2019 'Final evaluation survey - NHS whistleblowers support scheme'  I have asked several times when this is to be published but received no reply. This may shed some light on the situation. Realted NHS web page: https://improvement.nhs.uk/resources/whistleblowers-support-scheme/

It's a tough one to crack and very senior people just won't talk about the deep seated problems of victimisation and blacklisting of staff and patients, and have unlimited resources to try and keep a lid on it. As exemplified by the National Guardian's Office, which as you know I believe is a dangerously (some say deliberately) flawed initiative.


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Hi Steve,

I’m so sorry to read of your blacklisting. Not at all nice for you and also a great waste of such valuable knowledge, experience and expertise. It happens, such blacklisting. I’ve been certain of that for some time. The very best journalism has brought it to our attention. I'm a patient. The local mental health team, Trust and the CCG that commissions their healthcare have blacklisted and savagely victimised me. It is open, flagrant refusal to provide any of the treatment for /assistance with overcoming, serious, long-term depression despite my being classed 'Acute', following a formal complaint to the CCG. The conduct of the Mental Health Team left me no alternative but to raise a complaint, but I was a gentleman throughout the process and the counter-productive treatment that preceded it. No mean feat under the circumstances.

My experience of the NHS as an institution, in the few months before my formal complaint was disturbing enough. The complaint appeared to be handled appropriately and the meeting with the Trust and CCG a couple of months later left me feeling grateful, very flattered and also confident that all would now be splendid with the treatment/assistance provided me by the mental health team, within reason of course.

I returned, or at least tried only to find that whenever I engaged to receive the healthcare or enquire regarding some specifics agreed in the meeting, I was subjected to brutal hostility by all staff on the team to the exclusion of any treatment or assistance whatsoever. From the CCG I got nothing but gibberish, excuses, vague and insincere assurances, and outright nonsense on the rare occasions they responded to my communications. Then they too turned very hostile when I would not let it go. They have since resorted to lies, and increasingly dirty tricks which persist as I exhaust all formal means of holding them to account.

It must be very scary being honest decent, professional and compassionate in the NHS. There was one such individual in the CCG. I could tell. She was uncomfortable with the conduct demanded of her, but complied nevertheless. There’s no place for scepticism, no need for proof, witnesses, plausibility, or credibility.  Critical thinking to any extent is abandoned altogether. Clearly no concern for the injustices that result, the distress harm and death inflicted upon their victims and their victims’ families and friends. No problem sleeping at night either going by the enthusiasm with which most get stuck in. Where do they find such hatred?

And the lengths the CCG have gone to since to make my life hell. They stop at nothing. My GP too. Her transformation I found shocking, difficult to process and very painful. I still do.  She had gone way above and beyond to ensure I did not escape a thorough consultation with her once I had brought my state of mind to her attention. Very impressive. And the urgency with which she argued I accept referral for secondary care...I only argued against it as often children in need of such care do not receive it promptly or at all.  She was a paragon of compassion and professionalism. Then almost out of the blue upon my call to her upon another matter, theatrically mean, unprofessional, unwilling to be of any assistance and determined only to convey disgust and contempt. All very distressing and bewildering. My GP in particular as that was before my formal complaint and a reaction, it transpired, to a false allegation about which I knew nothing at that time. The matter: Living, altruistic, non-directed kidney donation and my desire to apply following the interest I’d registered a few years earlier. I kid you not.


I switched to another GP and ...I could go on and on. Suffice to say whether primary or secondary care, Trust or CCG, receptionist or senior psychiatric consultant; everyone is singing from the same song sheet of ill-treatment and wilful neglect and with the self-confidence/assurance that comes with the certainty that they have the entire NHS, PHSO, Police, Parliament, CPS and Courts etc, and even the third sector on their side (I'm holding out some faith in the CQC).

Someone very prominent, a national hero and deservedly so said to me "Clive you're wasting your time. They (NHS and the organisations that govern it) will NEVER change." She should know. Another hero Della Reynolds asks publicly "Why is there not public outcry?!". Well...I'm intelligent enough. I keep abreast of current affairs. I knew of the maternity scandals, Mid Staffs, Ian Paterson and so on, but must concede that I was deluded. I felt certain that while the health service is clearly flawed, institutionally a little disturbing yes and in desperate need of fundamental restructuring; lessons would nevertheless have been learnt. Also, that a pledge is a pledge, that people are naturally inclined to be professional, benevolent and that if all else fails we have Sections 20 to 25 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act, 2015. Legislation! It is now a criminal offense to attempt to kill patients.

I challenge anyone to make an attempt to report to Police an offence under that legislation. See how you get on. Compare your experience to that which the Victims' Code states we can expect.


I doubt there's a solution Steve, which is depressing. I'm heartened that you have the character, initiative and resolve to minimise the impact on your career and quality of life. 






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Thank you for your comments Clive. I am so sorry to hear what is happening to you. I'd like to say it's an unusual situation but I know many have experienced the same treatment.

Patient complaints are an opportunity not a threat. Sadly the NHS largely fails to recognise this, and fails to provide the right training for staff (at all levels) so that we can all learn and improve.

I remain optimistic that this can and will change. There are some good signs of this in some trusts.


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