Gary Walker is a former chief executive of United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust. He claims he was forced out of his job in 2009 after trying to alert the strategic health authority to problems in his trust that were putting patients at risk.
He broke his so-called supergag on February 14 this year to speak out about the issues at his former trust, and how he had been silenced. The flurry of media attention this attracted has led to Mr Walker having frequent television, radio and print appearances during the past month. As a result of his profile being raised, he has been asked to present evidence at the Commons Health Select Committee on Tuesday March 19. Nursing Times will be there to cover the event live so follow us on twitter @nursingtimessos or nursingtimes.net/SOS
So, here are five reasons why you should follow the case.
- The former chief executive alleges he blew the whistle directly to Sir David Nicholson about his concerns regarding patient safety at the trust. As the NHS chief executive finds himself constantly under pressure at the moment, Mr Walker’s evidence could be powerful in its attempts to displace the man who has faced more and more calls to resign since the publication of the Francis report.
- Mr Walker is likely to reveal some issues about using public money to cover up secrets within the NHS that will not sit well with the public and patients. It could pile on the pressure for a more open and transparent NHS.
- The claims that Mr Walker made about safety have always been denied by the trust, which stated that he left his job over conduct issues (he was sacked for swearing at a meeting, a claim his supporters have claimed is trumped up). Since the launch of Nursing Times Speak Out Safely campaign, we have found lots of nurses who have been sent to occupational health after raising concerns. The attempt to discredit the whistleblower either by suggesting they are ill or incompetent is thought to be common. This could change the way whistleblowers are viewed forever.
- Mr Walker alleges that he was gagged a week after the former health secretary Andrew Lansley last banned gagging clauses, which will undermine Jeremy Hunt’s latest outlawing of NHS gags. Mr Walker’s case could see them – and retrospective gags on staff – truly undermined, enabling more staff to speak publicly about their concerns.
- His evidence could focus on the bullying “kiss up, kick down” culture of the NHS, which he claims he was a victim of. Certainly, this has been one of the most talked-about problems with the NHS. It was what prevented Helene Donnelly, the A&E nurse at Mid Staffs, as well as many others from being taken seriously.
Catch up on what’s happened so far with the Gary Walker timeline.
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