Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced an independent probe to “boost safety and transparency and openness” in the NHS. The move follows a string of cases where people who have highlighted serious failings have been hounded out of the health service.
Mr Hunt said Sir Robert Francis would be chairing the review and it would provide advice and recommendations “to ensure NHS workers can speak up without fear of retribution”. He said: “The review will also look at how we can ensure that where NHS whistleblowers have been mistreated there are appropriate remedies for staff and accountability for those mistreating them.” It was estimated, he added, that 12,000 deaths a year in hospitals had a 50 per cent chance or greater of being prevented.
Mr Hunt said: “In the Government’s response to Sir Robert Francis’s public inquiry on poor standards of care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, I made clear our determination to make the NHS the safest and most open healthcare system in the world. So today all hospital trusts around the country will receive an invitation to sign up to safety.”
Dr David Drew, 66, a paediatrician whose 37-year career was ruined after he voiced concerns about bullying and staff shortages who is also a Christian, was targeted when he emailed a prayer to colleagues at Walsall Manor Hospital, hoping it would be motivational. An investigation was started and a review panel told him to “keep his religious beliefs to himself”. When he refused to accept the findings, he was sacked from the hospital where he worked as a clinical director.
He said: “I was told that my case will be one of a small number that will be examined in the review. This follows a meeting that I had with Jeremy Hunt and Simon Stevens last week as part of a group of six NHS whistle-blowers who had been dismissed and Dr Raj Mattu. “I understand that the purpose of the review is to consider what further action is necessary to protect NHS workers who speak out in the public interest and help to create the kind of open culture that is needed to ensure safe care for patients. My only comment is: About time!”