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The Secret State – 9: gagging whistleblowers

whistleblowers 3As noted earlier, a growing number of whistleblowers are coming from many quarters including hospitals, police stations, the military, nuclear and pharmaceutical industries, to reveal information about ‘covered up’ dangers or other misdeeds deliberately withheld from the public.

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But despite the so-called Whistleblowers Act – the Public Disclosure Act – these people are being victimised  or ‘gagged’ and for years the Department of Health and the Treasury have withheld information about the full extent and cost of this practice.

gary walker whistleblowerBBC News reports that Gary Walker, a health service manager, signed an agreement linked to a confidentiality clause in April 2011. This, he claimed, prevented him from speaking out about his dismissal and his concerns over patient safety. He has now decided to break the gag – the first former NHS employee to do so.

MP Steve Barclay, a member of the public accounts committee, spent two years obtaining the information that in three years there were 598 ‘special severance payments’, almost all of which carried confidentiality clauses aimed at silencing whistleblowers, costing the taxpayer £14.7million.

The Department of Health and the Treasury, which was sent the information by the relevant NHS bodies, refused to publish the costs until Mr Barclay tabled a series of parliamentary questions.

Advice from Dr David Nicholl (repeated)

Never blow the whistle alone (check with colleagues that you have your facts right) go up the chain of command first (your medical director, chief executive etc).

If they don’t reply or fob you off, write to them again- this time get a letter signed by your colleagues in your department – and – if the problem is still ongoing and is risking patients, and you haven’t had a proper reply following the above, you are duty bound to go to the press in my view.

Make sure you are 100% sure of your facts, would you be prepared to swear on oath in court that your evidence is correct? Whingeing is one thing, but being sued for libel doesn’t do anyone, least of all your bank balance any favours.