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Gary Walker: 'I want to know what has been hidden already'


We should welcome announcements like this that go towards openness and transparency in the health service. But let’s not forget this is the fifth time that gagging orders have been banned.

Really the issue is not about whether they have been banned but what senior managers and civil servants have been doing to get around this law all this time.

Sign our Speak Out Safely petition to support a transparent and open NHS. We are calling on the government to implement recommendations from theFrancis report that will increase protection for staff who raise concerns about patient care.

It’s clear that we already have hundreds of nurses and other health professionals who have been gagged in the past. Many of them will have known information about patient harm that will have been suppressed. We need to know what has been suppressed and by whom.

I would like to see the promise of openness and transparency turned into reality for all staff so they feel protected. And I would like to see accountability for those who have already broken the law over gagging orders.

I want to know what has been hidden already. Steve Barclay says that the government may have already paid £15m out in these agreements, but with legal fees, that could easily be double that.

Lots more needs to be done to make sure all staff feel supported and able to raise concerns in the first place. We can see that when staff have minor issues on the ward, for example, these are often responded to well. But we need to see that being the case higher up. People need to feel able to raise concerns without the tables being turned on them.

“Ultimately it is all about having the right leaders with the right morals in place. We need to bring in people who will drive quality and safety in the NHS.”


Readers' comments (8)

  • michael stone

    You need concerns to be raised by a representative of all of the staff who are bothered by it (so, one nurse speaking for an entire ward, one junior doctor speaking for many junior doctors, one middle manager speaking for many middle managers, etc) or else this 'bullying' will always be possible.

    And you (probably) need to 'publish' the concern, when it is initially raised - not right at the end of the process.

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  • I know of individual nurses who have wanted to raise even minor concerns at staff meetings but they ask to have them raised anonymously because they will be picked on and humiliated if some of the staff find out who they are.

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  • that is ridiculous. open, honest and healthy working relationships are not possible if any concerns have to be expressed anonymously. it is those who bully and humiliate who need to be taken to account. such behaviour is abnormal and unwanted and such individuals should not be allowed to gain the upper hand. these individuals are often the ones who gain promotion and cause mayhem and the demise of any organisation and in a health service can impact very seriously on the standards of care.

    maybe everybody needs to gain the best possible understanding of what lies behind bullying and expert psychological counselling should be available in order to stamp it out. we had a psychologist on our ward team whose main function was psychotherapy for patients but she was also an excellent sounding board for any communication and interpersonal difficulties in the team. As she attended our meetings and our coffee breaks she knew us all well and could quickly predict the signs of any storm brewing.

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  • Yes But

    Anonymous | 15-Mar-2013 11:36 am

    Concerns about individuals, have to be raised 'by the accuser/s', unless the issue is objectively measurable clinical incompetence - it isn't fair, to be accused of 'bad attitude', and the like, anonymously.

    But concerns about 'bad systems' (there are not enough staff on duty, there is not enough equipment, the paperwork is absurd and is getting in the way of us doing our job') should be raised by a representative, I think.

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  • "Following Mr Walker’s initial concerns raised in 2009 Sir David Nicholson commissioned a rigorous independent review, following which it was concluded that no evidence whatsoever was found of bullying and harassment by the Trust or SHA.'
    Was there ever any doubt that this would be the outcome? Bullying and gagging is rife in the NHS. Any member of staff who speaks out will be victimised, bullied and forced to leave. This has been going on for years and Mr Nicholson has been well aware of it. This bullying culture has resulted in poor care and patient’s death. Mr Nicholson should resign forthwith and if he doesn't to willingly, he should be sacked. David Hunt said the police should investigate the lack of care and deaths at Mid-Staffs. Perhaps he could arrange for Mr Nicholson to be the first one that the police interview.

    Dame Barbara Hakin, the former head of the NHS in the West Midlands, has been accused of blocking an external review of mortality rates at United Lincolnshire NHS Trust, and effectively forcing the resignation of the hospital’s chief executive after he raised concerns.
    She is understood to be facing a General Medical Council investigation into her conduct. On Monday she was promoted to one of the most senior roles in the health service.
    Dame Barbara is now the deputy chief executive of the NHS Commissioning Board, the body run by Sir David that is charged with overseeing the health service from next month in the wake of government reforms.
    Senior health figures described the appointment as tantamount to Sir David “putting two fingers up to the public” amid widespread criticism of his own conduct.

    Does this give anyone confidence that that David Cameron and David Hunt are really serious about banning gagging in the NHS. Common sense would tell you that whilst they keep David Nicholson in charge nothing will change. Once the present controversy quietens down it will be back to business as usual with a vengeance.
    As Garry Walker points out, this is the fifth time that gagging orders have been banned, why should we think that this one will make any difference, particularly with the same people who condoned the gagging in charge.

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  • I know of a cover up in the Trust i worked for which no staff are allowed to go public about. It was a decision by management (against the advice of clinical staff) to bring in a private firm to reduce waiting lists. Nobody checked their performance and their skills turned out to be poor, a couple of patients suffered harm and their contract was terminated.

    The point is this firm was contracted by the Chief Exec directly against the advice of the Consultants who had major concerns. If only they had been listened to.

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  • Richard White

    Is there not a strong case for the RCN stting up a 'support' structure for whistleblowers in the nursing profession?
    Initial resports of problems to both management and RCN could then be dealt with under the auspices of both organisations with the RCN protecting the nurse from victimisation? It seems obvious that an external body must be involved to offer such a service. If the RCN doesn't do it, the press will.

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  • Sign this petition: Suspend the creation of NHS Foundation Trusts with immediate effect.
    In light of the findings that several NHS Foundation Trusts are being investigated for abnormally high death rates, suspend the creation of NHS Foundation Trusts with immediate effect.

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