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Speak out Safely

Why you should follow the Gary Walker case this week


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

So, here are five reasons why you should follow the case.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Click here to sign our petition calling on the government to strengthen protection of whistleblowers.


Readers' comments (19)

  • James Brown

    Point 3 recurs. In almost all reported NHS disputes between Trusts and anyone else (clinicians or patients or relatives) by the time it reaches the equivalent of some sort of court, one side and the other invariably dispute what actually happened.

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  • I will follow with interest. Did he get to keep his half million or so redundancy pay?

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  • His 500K was a gagging payment and lawyers have threatened to take it back if he speaks out but he has anyway. It may sound like a lot but minus legal fees and basically never being able to work in the NHS again, given he's in his 40s, it's less money than it sounds. Definitely one to watch.

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  • Met some of the most appalling managers in the NHS.....and some of the most outstanding....bullying is commonplace and inadequate management everywhere you look. Time for a major shake up

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  • mangers need adequate training the knowledge of healthcare and the needs of patients, and staff to deliver good care, to allow them to work as valuable members of the teams so that the whole service is united in meeting the same patient centred goals.

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  • The Nobody | 18-Mar-2013 11:55 pm

    I wouldn't feel too sorry for him. He has cleverly adopted a high media profile. He'll most likely get to keep the £500k and the fact of him being so visible, will probably discourage his previous employers from pursuing him too vigorously. As to his future, he will have no trouble gaining some kind of consultancy/advocacy post within one of the many whistleblower organisations or similar. I am happy that this guy has decided to speak out, but I'm not comfortable seeing him presented as a martyr. Many nurses and medics have spoken out, been horrendously bullied and have been left with nothing.

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  • I am at present,in exactly the same position as mr walker,with the same trust,they are bullies ,and there has been a lot of covering up for many years,i applaud this man he is a hero in my eyes,but,its always the same ,unless it directly affects you or your loved ones ,no one really cares,but everyone should remember ,one day we will almost all be lying in a hospital bed at some point.

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  • Anonymous | 19-Mar-2013 5:52 pm

    You're absolutely right. I've only got direct personal experience of a medic being hounded out of a job (unbelievable racism) and he practically ended up with PTSD - but the more I read about bullying of clinical staff the worse it is. And they have professional registration to worry about. Most identify so strongly with their jobs, it's harder to do something different. But I am glad all the nasty secrets are being forced out into the open.

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  • The Nobody | 20-Mar-2013 1:07 am

    why doesn't somebody stand up on a soap box and say it will no longer be tolerated and deal with it as it happens even if it means downing tools and walking out for a while.

    alternatively get in a team of psychologists to sort the bullies out!

    no staff should have to put up with bad treatment and no patient should be the ultimate recipient of care that arises in such a toxic environment.

    as a manager it is not enough just to side with the nurses against all the rest without doing anything about it for the sake of the patients.

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  • David Nicholson served as a "yes man" for Labour in implementing the box ticking culture which ultimately resulted in the disaster that was Stafford Hospital. He now aims to become the "yes man" once again for the Conservatives in their implementation of their privatisation policies and of course to keep his enormously inflated salary. This man should see himself shamed and even prosecuted, otherwise his appearance in front of the select committee will be nothing more than a job interview for him.

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