Blog: The Good Doctor: Whistleblowers in a deaf and nasty NHS

Blogpost: The Good Doctor:

"Whistleblowers in a deaf and nasty NHS"

WHISTLEBLOWING is a form of complaining. As such, it is a means of improving quality of care in the NHS, and therefore should be encouraged. However, whistleblowers have been mistreated by the NHS. Some have been bullied, whilst others have had their careers ruined.

I know of a friend who had been the blue-eyed blonde girl of her PCT. One day, she expressed concerns about some overseas doctors and their dangerous practices, such as prescribing oral steroids for a simple ear infection, or prescribing large doses of two antidepressants and lorazepam 5mg to mildly depressed patients.

She thought she was doing the right thing when she shared her concerns with the responsible PCT managers. She was protecting patients, which is what these managers are paid to do. Little did she know that the manager to whom she reported her concerns was the very manager who had recruited these badly qualified doctors.

From that moment on, the whistleblower became the pariah of the PCT. In short, the PCT found an excuse to report her to a professional body threatening to withdraw her licence to practice. They encouraged silly complaints, and claimed without evidence that she had more complaints about her than average. They manufactured lies, and did their best to ruin her reputation. They had promised to support her practice expansion and then pulled the carpet from under her feet, bringing her to near bankruptcy. They harried her till she rued the day she became a GP.

She confronted the managers involved, who were behaving like the mafia. Strangely the most senior manager admitted to abusing her power and acting out of malice, as she felt slighted by the whistleblower. But the bullying went on and the whistleblower found it impossible to survive as a GP in the hostile climate created by the vindictive mafia-like managers. She made an official complaint to the CEO of the PCT. Her complaint was not even acknowledged. Strangely, the same people had criticised her dealing with complaints from patients. Yet the CEO of the vindictive managers did not even acknowledge the complaint. My friend eventually lost her zest for the NHS and took early retirement.

Meantime the managers who abused their powers in order to make her life unbearable, and who failed to take responsibility for their mismanagement of NHS funds and their putting patients’ health at risk, were promoted, whilst the whistleblower’s career was ruined. The whistleblower told me that she refused to work in a system where NHS sewage, that her mafia-like managers are, simply gets recycled; badly performing managers are neither disciplined nor sacked. They are simply moved up the ladder to a different position, because they have licked the right boots. By contrast a doctor whose main concern was patient safety has her career ruined and her life made miserable.

Apparently the NHS is taking action to protect whistleblowers. The proposed NHS "Freedom to Speak Up Guardian", a person to whom whistleblowers can speak safely, unless appointed by an independent body, runs the risk of being incestuous.

If this "Guardian" is to be employed by the NHS, then they will be under pressure to look after the managers’ interests and not the patient or the whistleblower’s. Hitherto, the NHS has proven to be deaf to whistleblowers, even atrocious and noxious.

If the NHS wants to truly protect whistleblowers, they should prove their sincerity by taking retrospective action. Whistleblowers, like adults who had been abused in childhood, should have their cases re-opened and dealt with, by an independent body.

What we need is an independent whistleblower guardian, who is not employed by the NHS, who ensures protection to the whistleblower for years to come, as some people have long memories and may retaliate at a much later date. The independent body needs to be objective and recognise that although many whistleblowers have been victimised, some whistleblowing may stem from less than honourable motives.

Finally the whistleblower guardian needs to have the remit and power to ensure that “sewage”, that is vindictive managers, is not recycled, but disposed of in a manner worthy of sewage, so they can no more cause harm to decent healthcare professionals or patients.

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