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Blacklisting by the NHS...it never ends?

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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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