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June 19, 2014

Filed under: Private Eye — Dr. Phil @ 11:57 am

18th June 2014

Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP
Secretary of State for Health
Richmond House

Dear Secretary of State

Thank you for meeting with us today to hear from whistleblowers across the NHS.

We were heartened to hear your praise for our courage, and how you saw us as being at the ‘vanguard’ in showing how the NHS culture is still intolerant of whistleblowing.

We are looking to help you achieve the cultural change that is overdue, in order that NHS staff feel safe to report their concerns about harm to patients.

At present, we have the opposite of a witness protection program, where staying silent is rewarded by payoffs and relocation, whereas speaking up gets you ‘buried in the woods’. Until this changes, and NHS staff can see for themselves clear examples of restorative justice, NHS workers can never feel safe to raise the most serious concerns about patient care.

Our position is that a public inquiry is now required to reveal the whistleblower’s journey in full and show how the ‘middle’ – that complex interaction of Boards, Unions, Colleges and Legal gaming of PIDA (PIDA avoidance) – puts patients and staff in harm’s way.

The call for a public inquiry already has wide expert support from a number of leading figures, ranging from Sir Brian Jarman to the President of the Royal College of Physicians.

Without a substantive inquiry, the top of the NHS will again fail to get to grips with the powerful culture of the ‘middle’, while the sharp end of the NHS will continue to suffer.

Inquiries can take time and may be expensive. But the 13-year Mattu case shows how the NHS can spend £20M on a single whistleblower, over a clear and neglected matter of patient safety. And patient harm is very expensive in every sense.

‘Plebgate’ revealed the police union culture – now courageously critiqued by Theresa May. Similarly, an inquiry is needed to reveal how health unions and others, help to suppress concerns and manage whistleblowers out of their posts. Please bear in mind that the latter experience was shared without hesitation by every whistleblower in the room today. Roger Kline has worked for eight unions and he too agreed. Only a public inquiry will have the powers to ensure that these organisations that operate in the midst of the NHS are held accountable, and required to reform.

Without this inquiry, the best intentions at the top of the NHS will be frustrated. Having an ombudsman for whistleblowers is supportable, but we know from Clywd-Hart it is not sufficient. Reform to professional codes will not help if culture does not change. After all, Raj Mattu is a whistleblower and yet one of the doctors most investigated by the GMC. In contrast, Harold Shipman was investigated once, but the GMC missed his lethal intent.

We appreciate that your consideration of these matters may take time. Therefore, in the near term, we wish to engage with your teams via working groups, to flesh out interim proposals required urgently to protect staff and patients at risk now.

Finally, we also wish to work again within the NHS to support the culture change and to protect patients. This would be the most positive form of restorative justice being urged by Ann Clywd.

Yours sincerely

Ms Loo Blackburn
Ms Sharmila Chowdhury
Dr David Drew
Ms Jennie Feccit
Dr Edwin Jesudason
Professor Narinder Kapur

cc Mr Simon Stevens, CEO NHS England

Ms Fiona Bell, Cure the NHS North East
Dr Kim Holt, Chair, Patients First
Mr Roger Kline, Director, Patients First
Dr Raj Mattu, formerly Consultant Cardiologistwe