Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Whistleblower nurses faced daily personal insults


The government must urgently review protection for whistleblowers in the wake of a series of cases involving nurses and other healthcare workers, a campaign group has said.

The charity Public Concern at Work is concerned that an appeal court ruling means employers are not required to protect nurse whistleblowers from harassment by colleagues.

The court heard that three nurses who worked at a walk-in centre run by NHS Manchester suffered personal insults and threats, after they raised concerns a colleague was lying about his qualifications and experience.

Court papers revealed the nurses received daily personal insults and one received an anonymous phone call threatening to burn down her house.

However, the Court of Appeal ruled employers are “not liable for retaliatory acts of other workers”.  

Public Concern at Work chief executive Cathy James said the ruling revealed that current legislation did not provide adequate protection to whistleblowers and should be reviewed.

“This ruling means that an employer who does not do enough to protect staff from retaliation can hide behind their own inaction and escape liability,” she said. “This is not good enough and may mean that workers, and particularly healthcare workers, stay silent when faced with the risks of blowing the whistle.”

The government announced earlier this month that a pledge requiring NHS organisations to support whistleblowers would be added to the NHS constitution from next year.


Readers' comments (11)

  • michael stone

    The story is appalling - as usual - but I have learnt that often reports of what judges said, and what they actually said if you read the full court report, can be very different. So I cannot comment on the legal issues, which could be much more subtle than implied above.

    But somehow, this type of abusive, bullying behaviour needs to be stamped on, if things are to improve.


    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • John Howes

    Let us not forget the Consultant who blew the whistle at Bristol Children's Hospital. To the best of my knowledge he has never worked in the UK since. If that can happen to a Consultant then heaven help the lower orders. Nobody is secure from the code of Omerta that exists in the NHS. Forget the lofty statements of the NMC and their predecessors, they will not go after the Chief Nurse and Policy makers who appear Teflon coated whenever Mid Staffs and other scenarios emerge. That is a fact borne out by observation. Nurses and Doctors are equally 'tribal' at concealing the unacceptable.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • michael stone

    John Howes | 1-Nov-2011 11:15 am

    John, my local hospital has got a long-running 'suspended consultant' saga. And your comments are unusually forthright, and I suspect accurate. I have some experience of the NHS becoming 'tribal', as you put it. It comes across as very annoying !

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Sadly, I have been on the backlash like this too.

    Yesterday, 01/11/2011 was the 5th anniversary of my whistleblowing at one of the largest Trusts in the country and it was so serious that the Chief Exec went overnight as the concerns ended up at No 10 Downing St, the week after the Chief Operating office went overnight and then within the Month the whole of the management structure in the affected Division was all swept clean.

    As a result I was bullied and harrassed, targeted mentally and physically and ended up being retired off on ill health grounds due to diabetes, stress and 4 nervous breakdowns later.

    My marriage has broken down as a result and life is so different.

    Me a burly bloke 6ft ex rugby player. I thought I was infallable - lol, clearly not.

    I had little support, was publicly ridiculed by the Trust and still have no support as a result 5 years on.

    I am now self employed and would do it all again if necessary as I kept my word to the NMC code of conduct which in the old days when I was 17, was the UKCC and my prime aim was to ensure Patient Care that was not compromised.

    I was called a liar by the Trust despite all evidence being deliberately overlooked - I was just a silly nurse in a Management position.

    Thank god for all the evidence I kept as it all went along.

    I would welcome post whistleblowing support even now, as even though I know what I did was right, its still hard at times particularly on pivotal anniversaries as it consumed my life completely for such a long time.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • it is hard to believe why all nurses and hospital workers to not have the best interests and welfare of those looking after them first and foremost at heart.

    How are these people employed in positions of responsibility for the care of vulnerable human beings in the first place. the system is failing patients, employees and society as a whole and betraying all trust required for such sensitive and vital work.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 2-Nov-2011 8:46 am

    You have my sympathy, not that being sympathetic is helpful.

    But the entire system, is stacked in favour of 'the big boys' and also staff (when amateurs are involved), and against 'little people' and laymen.

    I eventually complained to the PHSO, about the way my PCT had been handling a concern I raised. Mysteriously, the PCT had no records from the pivotal meeting in the event chain, at which I believed one thing had been agreed, and the PCT apaprently thought differently. The PCT told the PHSO it had no notes of what was said and discussed at that meeting - peculiar, because the PCT kept minutely-detailed records of everything else ! The PCT also grossly 'distorted' its accounts of events, in the material it sent ot the PHSO, and also fabricated a phone call: etc.

    But the PHSO wrote to me with 'so we have no information about what happened at the meeting': I complained about that, as the PHSO had NOT asked me what happened at the meeting, and I could have told them: this IMPLIES that the word of a PCT, is reliable, but the word of the compalinant is not.

    It just does not work, in terms of 'improving from feedback', the way concerns and compalints are currently dealt with in the NHS, especially by large bodies such as hospitals and PCTs.

    I don't know if this would help you, but my approach to what happened to me, has been to prod people, in an attempt to stop it from happening to ther people. For me, it seems to help, but as you say, it tends to occupy your life/time.

    Have you contacted the Department of Health, explained in brief what happened to you, and asked who deals with NHS complaints policy, because you would like to fill that person in with the full details of what happened to you, and how you think these situations could be improved ? In my experience, the DH seems to respond to such things in a much less defensive way, than most NHS bodies do (but you need to get in touch with its civil servants, not the politicians).

    That suggestion, is the only 'support even now' I can (sort of) offer.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Please visit website for whistle-blowers by whistle-blowers.

    we as a group trying to bring about a judicial review of the current system as it clearly fails to support whistle-blowers within NHS.
    Please feel free to pass this on to your friends/colleagues

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I am so sad but in some way it is a relief to know that we are not alone. I am one of the whistleblowers from Wythenshawe recently lost an appeal by NHS Manchester to overturn a decision to allow our appeal earlier in the year. We have been throught the most difficult time, paying for the appeal out of our own money , the NHS used Tax payers money andf managed to overturn the law which now maskes it possible for employees to do whatever they want. Its not appropriate here to go into the complicated history but basically we found a nurse that was lying about his qualifications, we took correct steps and acted within our code of conduct. Two of us were moved and our colleagues bank shifts were stopped. We need to stick together and maybe lobby Parliament even go as far as a demonstration. There is a lot happening but to those who have been hurt, do not give up, join us, we need to stick together look at Patients first website, we have had great support from PCAW and expect this judgement to be taken to Parliament. We will not give up and like the rest of the country we need to stand up to corruption and those only interested in protecting their own jobs.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I am grateful to everyone who has provided me with details about support.

    It has been one of the most horrific things I have ever dealt with professionally and I used to be a Senior Nurse in A/E!

    I never new such organisations existed and have had a look at them.

    When it happens and even now, I feel so alone and desolate!

    What I really miss because of this is the personal element of being cuddled and held, but due to the fact of my marriage breaking down as a result of the whistleblowing, and being told you did good and look at what you have achieved - you have piece of mind and can sleep at night, which I know I can. The Director of Nursing is now the Chief Operating Offficer, and should not sleep at all, because suprisingly she had no conscience in relation to the NMC code of conduct nor to the 100thousand+ patients affected.

    I believe firmly in fate and everything happens for a reason and that one day, they will all get their comeuppance.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Another source of support is We offer information and support and because we have all been the victims of unsubstantiated allegations or highhanded behaviour by malfunctioning managers, have an idea of the distress and disastrous consequences of these actions. Rachel Murray, in her PhD research, described it as causing psychological injury.
    Gradually the public are waking up to these injustices – unbelievable to those who have not experienced them. They are also waking up to the fact that the organisations use tax payers money to fund their legal actions or defences so robbing funds for essential health services.
    The ITV Tonight programme is currently researching this issue and would like to hear of any suspended staff such as the consultant Michael Stone mentioned in his comment. Please contact for the researcher’s details.
    Julie Fagan, founder member CAUSE (Campaign Against Unnecessary Suspensions and Exclusions UK)

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Show 1020results per page

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.

Related Jobs