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Charity launches commission on whistleblowing


An expert panel has been appointed to investigate the current barriers to effective whistleblowing across a range of sectors including healthcare.

The Whistleblowing Commission was launched today to examine the effectiveness of existing arrangements for workplace whistleblowing and make recommendations for change.

It has been set up by the whistleblowing charity Public Concern at Work and includes Gary Walker, the former chief executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust.

He has received widespread media coverage in recent days, after he chose to break his own gagging clause. Mr Walker claims he was forced out of his job in 2010 for refusing to prioritise meeting targets at the expense of patient safety.

Public Concern at Work said public inquiries and scandals in many sectors – including the media, banking, health, social care and food – had highlighted the “vital role” that whistleblowers could play in the “early detection and prevention of harm”.

But it said there were too many examples where whistleblowing had not worked because people had been “afraid to speak out, have not been listened to, or have suffered victimization…for having the courage to raise concerns”.

The new commission will launch a public consultation in March looking at whistleblowing from the point of view of individuals, organisations, and regulators, as well as the role of wider society and the effectiveness of current legislation.

Carol Sergeant, chair of Public Concern at Work, said: “Many, if not all of the issues that are causing so much concern today could have been prevented or stopped early if individuals had felt able to speak out and had been listened to.

“We need to make sure that whistleblowing really works for the sake of individuals, organisations and society as a whole,” she said.

“We have drawn together a strong, independent group from different backgrounds that will bring unique insights on this very important issue,” she added.

The commission members are:

  • Right Honourable Sir Anthony Hooper – former Court of Appeal Judge (Chair)
  • Michael Rubenstein – independent legal publisher and discrimination law expert
  • Sarah Veale CBE – head of employment rights at the TUC
  • Gary Walker – former NHS chief executive and whistleblower
  • Michael Woodford – former Olympus president and CEO and whistleblower
  • Very Revd Dr David Ison – dean of St Paul’s Cathedral

Readers' comments (3)

    I really really hope it works.
    Something has to change our toxic culture.

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  • Some time ago, I contacted our chief nurse over concerns on how stroke patients with dyspagia were being fed inappropriately. She gladly saw me, listened to me, respected my concern and knowledge in this area of nursing and acted on it. I had feedback, and that was at ULHT. I didn't for one minute feel as though I was whistleblowing, just raising an issue about practice that was grossly misunderstood in one particular area. It was a training issue. Was I just lucky, or was it the way I approached the concern, I don't know?
    Having said all that, on the other hand, I have also seen bullying tactics on some wards, mainly from ward managers.

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  • I have been bullied, and threaten with redeployment and even dismissal for whistleblowing on fudging 4 hourly fiqures in a & e. my career is now at a standstill, I have been passed over for promotion on many occasions. my crime: 1) telling the truth and 2) being disabled into the bargain. At what point in nursing did we forget to respect each other and the patients.

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