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Whistleblowers who suffer harm must receive apology and practical redress, say MPs


Whistleblowers who have suffered as a result of speaking out should receive an apology and see action taken to remedy the harm done to them, according to the latest report by the health select committee into the handling of complaints within the NHS.

MPs said the treatment of whistleblowers remained a “stain on the reputation of the NHS”, which had led to “unwarranted and inexcusable pain” for a number of health care professionals, described as “courageous individuals”.

The committee has called for those staff who are proven to be vindicated in their concerns to be issued with an apology and practical redress for any adverse effects they experienced as a result.

“There should be a programme to identify whistleblowers who have suffered… and provide them with an apology and practical redress”

Complaints and Raising Concerns report

In its report, the committee says: “We recommend that there should be a programme to identify whistleblowers who have suffered serious harm and whose actions are proven to have been vindicated, and provide them with an apology and practical redress.”

In this fourth report – called Complaints and Raising Concerns – the committee makes 21 recommendations to improve the way staff and patients speak up about concerns.

Robert Francis

Robert Francis

It welcomed the progress made since its last inquiry, noting that patient safety and the treatment of complaints had become high profile issues, but said there was still significant scope for improvement.

A simplified, streamlined complaints system should be introduced, said MPs, who also highlighted there was a strong case for integrating social and health care complaints under the same umbrella system.

MPs also endorsed a suggestion from Sir Robert Francis QC that trusts should be required to publish summaries of anonymised complaints made against them, how they have been handled and the lessons learned.

The committee noted that Sir Robert’s own whistleblowing inquiry - due to be published early this year - has received more than 600 written submissions and 17,500 online responses and said it hoped the findings would provide a template for creating an open complaints reporting culture.

Committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston said: “This report does not seek to undermine [NHS staff] commitment but to make sure that where poor standards do occur, these can be identified and put right at the earliest opportunity for the benefit of patients and staff alike.

Health select committee

Sarah Wollaston

“Concerns and complaints are an important source of information for improving services and it is vital that the NHS continues on the path of changing the way that these are viewed and handled.”

Commenting on the proposal that whistleblowers should receive practical redress, the NHS Confederation – which represents provider and commissioning organisations – welcomed the recommendation.

NHS Confederation chief executive Rob Webster said: “We support the calls for practical redress for those who have been harmed as a consequence of raising genuine concerns. We should apply the same golden thread of complaints handling to staff who have been failed.”


Readers' comments (18)

  • AS I have been a WB for over 20 years I have a lot of apologies coming HA HA, Starting with Southampton General in 1992 ending with Care UK 2014.
    I wont hold my breath!

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  • bob cat

    I see no solid commitment or strategy to ensure that this is the case. Shoulds, oughts and support calls for is not enough. While there is a culture where this needs to be argued for, the need for it and consequences of doing it will remain, regardless of who has signed up on the speak up safely page.

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  • Too late. My career's over due to health impacts, and can't get NHS treatment unless I move as provider would be my ex-employer and consultants have refused to put truth in my medical notes as 'NHS xx wouldn't accept it as it implies liability' at same time as verbally saying I'm 'now to traumatised by what's happened within NHS xx to receive treatment within it'.
    I'm not sure what 'redress' would counteract loss of career, working life, health, income and soon my home.

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  • So sad to see the anonymous post above - 21 Jan 11.11pm, it has given me an understanding as to why my own records do not show what has happened to me and left me ill - losing everything over the past 15 years. Surely the NHS are not complying with the Human Rights Act and other GB Legislation when behaving in such a damaging way ?

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  • michael stone

    The point is, the Health Select Committee can't actually enforce these 'shoulds'. Which Bob mentioned, above.

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  • To Anon 11.11 -I recognise and empathise with you over the devastation caused by the NHS. Ironic that the NHS is responsible for deliberately ruining our health.
    Re recommendations that health and social services complaints procedures should come under one umbrella - I welcome it as the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsmen is futile and the NHS and Social Services Safeguarding complaint services, in my experience, routinely breach the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Mental Capacity Act 2005/ Deprivation of Liberty Safeguarding Laws. The police force I alerted told me that these laws are "not legal laws"…. (where is the capital of France?)
    The whole situation is a mess but the CQC I dealt with did behave in a reasonable and lawful manner albeit it was too slow to protect my relative from harm.
    Where best interests of the service user are abandoned and an inappropriate death may be suspected, relatives can relate their lack of confidence in care homes and GPs (even if the GP has issued a statement to say death was not sudden/improper) to the Coroners office and they may do an enquiry followed, if they see fit, by a postmortem. Worth a try to help others who are still suffering if it would not go against the wishes/beliefs of their loved one.
    My complaints against care home and NHS resulted in them accusing me of violence against staff which ended up included in a court hearing but was instantly withdrawn before the Judge. How do they have the nerve to use such falsehoods to persecute complainants for months and immediately withdraw them when challenged in court? I assert that the NHS management has no respect for the law. It really is time that the law was enforced against unlawful authorities. A frown directed at them is not enough.
    NHS Trusts and Boards need more diversity - including Home Managers and Care Assistants. Doctors, accountants and administrators are clueless about delivering cost effective humane care based on prevention not cure.
    A new complaints system under one umbrella needs to consist of new blood as the stench from the old blood is vile.

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  • Based on my observations of one nhs body I get a very strong impression that their intent is to polish off elderly vulnerable people and break complainants. The providers behaviour was instigated by the nhs. So no use swopping providers.
    The fourth Francis Report is fine but the police must enforce the law for vulnerable people. The Government must stop acting on their opinions instead of research-based evidence.

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  • To anonymous 12.55
    NHS uses providers who employ bank nurses, often they are nurses who are not registered with NMC or familiar with the laws. They do not get to work if they do not do as they are told by the providers and the providers do not get favoured by the NHS commissioners unless, I believe, the service users do not last long.

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  • After what happened to me on the Sir John Dacie ward I still have not recovered!

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  • you can't always win your career back once it has been destroyed and especially if it happens later on even if you have an unblemished track record. In the private hospital sector RCN will not give you any support - there answer private employers can do as they wish!

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