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Other hospitals are 'likely' to have similar practices to Gosport, safety expert and nurses say


Failings that allowed the Gosport hospital scandal to happen are probably being repeated at other NHS services but not being identified because of the Department of Health and Social Care’s “desire not to know”, a leading expert on hospital mortality has claimed.

gosport war memorial hospital

gosport war memorial hospital

Professor Sir Brian Jarman from the Dr Foster Unit at Imperial College London said that mortality data of the kind that would alert officials to a similar scandal was not being properly assessed at the department.

A public inquiry into 800 deaths due to excessive opiate use at Gosport War Memorial Hospital this week found that nurses had raised concerns but been ignored by senior staff at the hospital.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday Sir Brian was asked if it would be a surprise to find the kind of practices at Gosport happening elsewhere in the NHS. “No, not a surprise at all,” he replied. “I think it’s likely.”

Sir Brian also related the difficulties he had had getting anyone at the Department of Health and Social Care to receive emails with mortality rates that the Dr Foster unit had collated.

“I did send various emails to Department of Health and tried to get someone to be willing to receive our alerts and they were not willing. Eventually they gave us the name of the person and then when we were about to send it to them they said she’d now left. So it’s very difficult.”

He added: “The thing behind all this is really that there’s a desire not to know.”

The problem with mortality statistics was exacerbated by an NHS culture that left potential whistleblowers scared to come forward, he said.

Despite government rhetoric about empowering whistleblowers nothing had really changed in recent years, he said. “I think the current Secretary of State is a very caring man…he has expressed a desire to help whistleblowers. This was a problem at Gosport. I don’t think it has (changed).”

New structures had been put in place but they had not had the intended effect, he said. “There are ways of alerting at each trust. They have a guardian for whistleblowers. But the actual whistleblowers say (they) are fired, gagged and blacklisted.”

“Nobody dares whistle blow in the NHS,” he said. 

The Royal College of Nursing declined to comment on Sir Brian’s claims. But responses from nurses to Nursing Times’ story about Gosport War Memorial Hospital appeared to echo his views.

One nurse described having complained about the same practice at another hospital. “I went through hell at the hands of doctors and nurse managers. I reported to the police who said ‘they were old and would die anyway,’ the anonymous poster said. 

“The RCN did nothing. Eventually the outcome was that I was given an option of being sacked or taking early retirement +10 years enhanced plus I had to keep my mouth shut.” The poster wrote that “just as at Gosport the patients were elderly, they were given opiates and were denied food or water. I suspect this went on in many hospitals.”

Another poster wrote: “As a former RCN officer I have had to represent whistleblowers who were terrified of repercussions from other staff. One case involved a nurse questioning palliative care practices in a small hospital, she had a trumped up charge against her following her challenge and was facing a disciplinary.”

The whistleblower was attacked by another nurse and verbally abused by ward staff, including the sister, the poster wrote. The case was like “unpeeling an onion” with new issues continually arising, the poster added. “This poor practice went right up to a totally weak senior nurse/hospital manager who ‘didn’t want any trouble’. Several of the bullies took early retirement, my nurse was completely exonerated but had become ill.” She left nursing.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We want NHS staff to feel supported to speak up when they have concerns – that’s why we legislated in May this year to protect whistleblowers from discrimination when applying for jobs and every NHS organisation is required to have a Freedom To Speak up Guardian – there are now over 560 in place.”

“But we know more needs to be done to further improve safety, which is why every hospital now publishes an estimate of the number of preventable deaths to help deliver safer care in future.”


Readers' comments (3)

  • I reported the same abuse at Southampton General Hospital's Elderly Care Unit
    I didn't only report to managers but Hampshire Police at Civic Centre Police station, Southampton.
    Managers & Drs were all involved and the manager on the unit's partner was a DCI
    I went through hell at the hands of the managers involved. Eventually, I was given a choice I could be sacked OR I could take early retirement with 10 years enhanced and keep my mouth shut. I was 47, I took the retirement and walked away with £19,000 + pension for life.
    I continued to work in hospitals and care homes until I was 69 when I retired from nursing. In that time, I reported abuse in hospitals and care homes through Action on Elder Abuse. I also published an article on abuse in Professional Nurse in January 1999
    I believe murders were committed by Drs & nurses in many hospitals all over the country but I can only comment on one

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  • My name is Andrew, I am a nurse. I worked at Royal London Hospital. I raised datix due to a serious incident due to poor staffing in step down ward on the 3th floor. Only 2 nurses on the unit one of which was a band 6 in charge with routine theathers activity on 3th floor as usual. I was working as every day in Recovery, that day in the morning. After 1 hour I started the shift I was moved to step down and the pressure was increasingly raising due to patients coming and others needing to be discharged home. I was asked to perform an extended role for the hospital protocol and NMC standards (dispensing and labelling medications stocked on the ward against a TTA / discharge letter) despite the fact I was not competent for that (nobody assessed my competencies and signed a competency form nor did anyone oriented me into the new ward and completed the checklist for this purpose). I complained I could help with everything else but not with that. I followed the escalation process and filed a datix. I was blamed in writing, my concerns ignored and criticised in writing accused of not knowing when to raise a Datix. Unfortunately it was in hospital protocol required to file a Datix when there are so few nurses in a unit within the hospital and moreover in the Local NATSSIP (minimum hospital standards below which standards of care cannot fall in UK) based on benchmarking data collection within UK. I was mocked and bullied in writing. Managers band 7 and band 8 who interviewed me and wrote the meeting report, involved withe the datix, DID NOT WANT TO KNOW OR HEAR about the problem and I became the problem, the trulouble maker. I was disgusted and hated to work in UK. I choose to do this job to help people not to protect at all cost and at the patients' expenses the reputation of an English trust who should lead in risk management other UK hospitals. Good reputation forage and sustain loans, business and money making but it does not mean that makes a business etichal and legal. Moreover being an NHS hospital there should be an affection and a genuine interest in the public safety, which should NEVER be compromised in order to make a system sustainable and profitable.
    My email address is if someone such as Professor Sir Brian Jarman is interested. The hospital of course wants to be in control and requires that authorised comments or disclosures of any related information about the Trust must be enabled and authorised by the Trust itself. It's a great condition for wistleblowers. Someone is not even allowed to say his own name for fear of repercussions.

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  • My name is Andrew, I am a nurse. I worked at Royal London Hospital. I was victimised due to the concerns I raised. I was assigned as off sick during my annual leave entitlement already approved because my managers, band 6 and band 7 booked me without my knowledge and without involving me in a series of bank shifts. Luckily I checked from my mobile my online rota and once spotted the anomaly called the bank Parters team to cancel my shifts. Incidental information (traces of information left by one person on computers' system visible to other parties) left by bank parters where read and used by my same managers to assume I was off sick and used to document the the change to my rota, disclosing to my colleagues that have access to the computerised system to see the rota online, the same incidental informations that for the privacy law are confidential and should not be disclosed without my knowledge and consent. They used and divulged this information taken from a private company such as bank partners with whom I had a separate private contract, terms and conditions of employment, to use it within the NHS Trust managing the cancellation of a bank shift I DID NOT EXPECT TO WORK AND DID NOT BOOK as a reason for sickness and therefore considering my annual leave not as such but as sick leave increasing my Bradford score. This is a CRIMINAL behaviour. I filed I grievance against my managers and after many fights with the RCN support due to irregularities and anomalies in the investigation process, lies and cover up from managers, time wasted, procedures about the grievance process not respected and even ignored like if the protocols that the hospital have disappeared and did not exist anymore, my grievance was upheld in writing. They invited me to the first grievance meeting after more than one month since I raised my grievance. A week only should have had passed by since I raised the concern in order to have a date for an initial meeting and an initial investigation to be considered althoghether with some answers of why that happened. They waited to arrange a meeting till the last day of work so that having left the day after the Trust everything for them would have been easier. I was banned from continuing working with Bank Parters by the HR Manager and associate director of nursing whom documented in emails that I was not suitable for the job giving an inaccurate and misleading description of my personal not based on facts and evidences. I never been suspended nor disciplined at work. My character is outstanding, my grievance upheld My managers wrote they don't want me in the Trust, they don't want to hire me anymore and gave me bad references with other employers. Now I am unemployed, in desperate search of work with 5 years of specialist nursing experience for having complained about patient safety and shift patterns (which still relate to patients ' safety ).
    In UK is impossible to work as a nurse inot thsee conditions.

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