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

'Whistleblowers need a supportive stance to be reflected in UK law'

  • Comments (38)

The recent news that pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline had received a record-breaking fine for fraud grabbed my attention.

The company admitted to offering doctors regular golf lessons, fishing trips, and basketball tickets while promoting the use of an antidepressant drug for use in children - a use for which it was unapproved. It also and failed to report safety data about a diabetes drug, as well as improperly marketing other drugs. As a result, it was fined an eye-popping $3bn.

As I listened to the story I felt a familiar mix of anger and resignation that wells up when the increasingly frequent examples of corporate misbehaviour hit the headlines. But then the story took another turn, which really piqued my interest.

The illegal activities came to light because an employee blew the whistle. Greg Thorpe raised concerns over the ethics of the company’s business practices with senior managers back in 2001. He was forced out of the company for his pains. So far, so familiar.

But the story didn’t end there - Mr Thorpe took his concerns to US regulators. And far from burying the issue, they spent 10 years getting to the bottom of the story. And here’s where Mr Thorpe’s story differs from those of so many UK whistleblowers. In the US, whistleblowers receive a share of any money recovered by federal government as a result of their disclosures. Yes, you read that correctly - in the US you can actually benefit from bringing to light corporate lawbreaking.

How different from the UK, where whistleblowers are routinely harassed, maligned and disciplined, many having their careers blighted and their mental health destroyed - and often for raising concerns that do not even involve lawbreaking but simply practices that need to improve. If they do receive any money it is in the form of a gagging clause to ensure their information does not reach the public domain.

Yes, Mr Thorpe lost his job, but at least the law in the US takes a more supportive stance towards whistleblowers. Perhaps if we had a similar law here in the UK employers would feel less inclined to protect themselves by destroying the credibility of whistleblowers, and more prepared to learn from the valuable information they disclose.

  • Comments (38)

Readers' comments (38)

  • michael stone

    Yes, of course the law needs to take a 'more supportive stance' towards whistleblowers - you only need to read the posts on this site, to see proof of that !

    I thought everyone knew that, already ?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Legally whistle-blowers will win, if taken to court, but what about attitudes in the work place? Will their lives be intolerable, if some of their collegues have been implicated? We saw one nurse suspended, because she used filming to prove the terrible neglect and verbal abuse of elderly patients, but through public support, was reinstated and classed as THE NURSE of THE YEAR, and so she was, probably of the centuary! It takes guts to be unpopular with work-mates but we need to have a conscience about the care we provide, or with hold. After all, WE are the patients advocates. Let's not let them down!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • George Kuchanny

    Too true. Not only do whistleblowers get no support in law which is bad enough, they also get actively maligned and persecuted, simply not good enough. What should be done? English Law please take note and change your ways. Stop supporting a worn out status quo and start supporting that which is right. Judge on merit not on what is deemed to be the easy option.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous

    Posting anonymously as l am thinking about opening a whole can of worms. How can a system run with managers that are not clinical or have no clinical experience? Listen to those at the coal face, please…, cut the managerial structure before the NHS become obsolete!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous | 18-Jul-2012 3:51 pm

    I can assure you that the NHS was a far better place and service of excellence without parallel anywhere else in the world before the introduction of General Management in the 1980s, when it was run by senior consultants, a medical superintendent and a matron and under her the ward sisters assisted by staff nurses.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • A Nonny Mouse

    I thought there was new legislation protecting staff who raise concerns - PIDA. Can be viewed on-line or via the NHS Constitution site.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous

    There is also the other side of whisleblowing those jealous, nasty, lying individuals that are known to us all that bully our fellow workers, and make life really unpleasent, however people seem to think this behaviour is ok and not a issue for whistle blowing. I say if these people can be so spiteful and unscrupulous in their actions that are being seen. what are they hiding ie what care are their patients recieving? are their patients suffering in silence, because they are vulnerable and dont want to make things worst? Beacause if their collegues are suffering in this way, then patients will be too! BULLY'S ARE BULLY'S AND NEED STOPPING as there actions can affect good nurses practice and generally devalue nursing as a caring organisation. So remember whilstleblowing doesnt have to be as high brow as Mr Thorps story, although i would say well done for proving your point and standing up for what you believe is wrong.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous

    Whistle Blowing and the PIDA law - unfortunately, after 4 years plus of first of all going through internal systems/investigations, then onto Employment tribunal (where it was finally confirmed by the presiding Judge that in face we three nurses had 'blown the whistle' and were justified and correct in doing so) but we 'lost'.
    Then we three went onto Employment Appeal Tribunal in London where the Judge found in our favour.
    Was that the end of it all? No.
    We three were taken to the Court of Appeal - we lost.

    So - despite correctly 'blowing the whistle' and doing 'the right thing' which took a lot of reflection, self searching and sleepless nights, did the PIDA act help us and protect us?
    NO.

    Did we three do the right thing?
    YES.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • A Nonny Mouse

    I know that workplace bullying is rife in the NHS, whenever I try and broach the subject with my manager I am always given the same tired old excuses.

    I would be more interested in reading an article from NT highlighting workplace bullying as it is so nasty as posted above.

    We are fobbed off with 'do you wish to make a formal complaint', 'do you wish to take out a grievance' - has anyone actually ever successfully gone down this route without evenexperiencing even more bullying and lying.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous

    no nonny mouse! i wrote the above comment re bullying and i took put a grievence that was upheld, sometime later at the end of a displinary orchastrated from a web of lies from the bully, documents came to light that showed that the perpertrator of the bullying that was proved, had no sanction placed against her, so was given a Red light by the management team to carry on with her behaviour, which she did with glea, but other people had joined in as there was no deterent. Bullying is so soul destroying and causes a lot of lost work days from ill health, so surely needs addressing, A lot of managers get payed good money, And should have a spine and address BULLYING as a priority.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Show 102050results 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.