‘U’ turn from Hunt’s team following media pressure

 By Sharmila Chowdhury 14 December 2014


20141213_175252 Fiona Bell, NHS whistleblower and an avid campaigner, wrote to Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State and Ed Jones, Special Advisor,  in 14 October 2014, raising serious concerns on behalf of a Morecambe Bay whistleblower, regarding a nurse who allegedly went around turning off the drips off elderly end of life patients in order to speed up their deaths. 

Fiona, hoped that due to the serious nature of her complaint, matter would be urgently investigated.

However, to her amazement, Fiona received the following response: 

From: <DoNotReply@dh.gsi.gov.uk>
Date: 6 November 2014 16:53
Subject: Response to your Query : – Ref:DE00000892418 – your recent correspondence to Jeremy Hunt and Ed Jones
To: fbell226@gmail.com

Our ref: DE00000892418

Dear Ms Bell,

Thank you for your correspondence of 14 October to Jeremy Hunt and Ed Jones about Mr xxxxxx. I have been asked to reply.

The Department of Health has noted the concerns in your correspondence. However, as mentioned in previous replies to you, ministers and Department of Health officials are not in a position to discuss personal employment issues.

Thank you for raising your concerns.

Yours sincerely,

Jeremy Vooght
Ministerial Correspondence and Public Enquiries
Department of Health

Shockingly, Department of Health instead of urgently investigating, responded by viewing early demise of the elderly  patients as an employment issue and refused to comment.

Fiona, in her true form, refused to give up and wrote again:

 Dear Mr Hunt,
Below is the response from your office from my email highlighting the concerns of a whistle blower , The concerns raised were advising of a nurse whom allegedly went around turning off the drips off elderly end of life patients in order to speed up their deaths .
Therefore I would like some one to explain to me and the public , how this is a personal employment matter? I’m pretty sure if you asked any member of the public, ” is this a personal employment issue or a matter that requires further investigation and full support for the whistle blower,”? Common sense would prevail and the public would expect a full investigation of all allegations.
The bog standard response from your office is part of all that is wrong and only aids those trying to cover up wrong doing. Quite frankly a disgrace that the DoH continue their “business as usual approach towards the whistle blower” it does not inspire confidence for the future or any future recommendations that may be made by the review .
For the record I am not asking for a discussion, I am requesting that these allegations are investigated fully by an independent body.
There are far too many whistle blowers left without employment and astoundingly still, in some very recent cases gagged , Those that cover up or do wrong are promoted or let go quietly.
Fiona Bell
The matter was then brought to the attention of the media via this website.
This was blogged and was tweeted and retweeted by the public as they were appalled by 
the response from Department of Health. It was clear that despite Francis’s Review and huge awareness of whistleblowing and raising concerns, promises by Department of Health to be committed to change, this has not happened in practical terms. Instead Department of Health had carried on brushing aside raised concerns as ’employment issue’, irrespective of what has been highlighted. There had been, disappointingly, no change in responses from Department of Health to people raising concerns.
With continuing pressure from the media, department of Health, seven weeks later, apologized and sent the following letter:


fiona 1


fiona 2


Clearly, it still takes a determined campaigner,  the media and public pressure to direct the  Department of Health into appropriate action. This is despite of much publicised NHS whistleblowing cases, and promises of change  by the Secretary of State, who commissioned the Francis’s review. We have a very long way to go.


For more details on the case:  https://sharmilachowdhury.com/2014/12/14/ignoredwhistleblowers-claim-of-nurse-who-killed-slowly/

8 thoughts on “‘U’ turn from Hunt’s team following media pressure

  1. Its another sweep under the carpet job this lot it seems wants those dying to pop off quickly without spending to much on em showing up this practice doesn’t rise a eyebrow but untill the public realy now whots going on in the nhs then more deaths more keeping it quiet while their chums line up for the sale of the century of our nhs

  2. My wife visited Joan Houston, a neighbour of her late father, in the same part of the Lancaster Royal Infirmary that Mr Dunkeld worked for a period of around six weeks in June/July 2005 at the same time, unbeknown to my wife, that Mr Dunkeld was sounding the alarm. Each day my wife would come home distressed at the lack of care.for patients in the all female ward were Joan was being ‘treated’. On one occasion she was late coming home having found Joan covered in bruising to head and body. She had asked the nurse in charge about how this bruising had occurred, whether Joan had been examined by a doctor and whether it had been recorded in the incident register. The nurse was evasive on all points and my wife said she would not leave the ward until she was satisfied that Joan had been examined by a doctor. The nurse said she would call security to have her removed but my wife stood her ground. Eventually a doctor was summoned and Joan examined. Sadly on Saturday 30 July 2005 for the first and only time my wife was unable to visit Joan. On the following morning she received a telephone call informing her that Joan had died. The response of the DoH remains unsatisfactory. The investigation needs to examine the conduct of the management and senior management involved to ascertain which of them are and which are not ‘fit and proper’
    persons to have responsibility for the governance and management of the NHS, the employment of clinical staff and the care and safety of patients.

    • That’s really dreadful. DoH have a long way to go. It still takes media pressure to get the correct action. Not sure if lessons have been learnt or its just about damage limitation.

      • I have seen nothing to persuade me that that the DoH wants to learn lessons at all except to find new ways to defeat, undermine or denigrate those raising legitimate concerns.

  3. Pingback: ‘U’ turn from Hunt’s team following media pressure – Sharmila Chowdhury | STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

  4. Media pressure can help keep issues in public awareness I agree, as it did in the Hammersmith Radiology case, but the ONLY solution to the root of the problem is a change in law, ie Edna’s Law principles so that individuals, not organisations, would be held accountable if found to have failed to respond to concerns and also the whistleblower would get financial remedy to the detriment suffered. Edna’s Law would be a combined deterrent/motivator and would also give the financial protection needed – and deserved – so urgently by Sharmila Chowdhury and many others. I really admire the way that Sharmila, Fiona Bell and other whistleblowers have achieved remarkable successes in keeping the issues in public awareness.

    In the end though practical action is essential and it is disappointing that so many of the public and whistleblowers too, being decent and honest people themselves, place far too much trust in increased regulation and “changing the culture” being the solution. They wil not be because the same people at the heart of the current problems will remain in post, and action is difficult to achieve even for someone with Sharmila’s or Fiona’s tenacity and determination.

    My own experience is in NHS & social care whistleblowing, three times for myself and supporting others in various cases, with the NMC, GMC, CQC, and CSSIW in Wales with various scenarios including secretaries, nurses, doctors, and care assistants. In every single case, the principles of Edna’s Law would have provided an effective solution and stopped the wrongdoing at an earlier stage by exposing it in a court, not an employment tribunal which has no powers to ensure wrongdoing is remedied and has no jurisdiction in many cases eg zero hours contracts or whistleblowers who are not employed by the organisation. Edna’s Law principles would also prevent financial settlement offered by employers to stop this public exposure as currently happens, with or without gagging clauses.

    I am currently supporting a case where several whistleblowers lost their jobs separately several years ago, and now the exact same issues are being reported again in the same workplace, about the same people. Remember that this is not an “historic” case, the wrongdoing had continued for several years after being reported to relevant regulators, and is ongoing. It comes after Mid Staffs, after the CQC’s new regulatory standards, near the end of the Francis Review, and after the claims of Jeremy Hunt, David Cameron et al. At some stage the current over-reliance on the promises of all the above has to replaced by realism.

    So I urge readers to support Edna’s Law now.

    • Thanks Christine. Have you submitted to Francis or advised him on Edna’s law?

      I agree there is too much emphasis on ‘changing the culture’. Its too airy/fairy for me, I’m afraid, and not sure how this can be both implemented (with current persecutors in post) or measured for effectiveness. We need practical solutions with a supervisory organisation who is effective. Less lip service and more action.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.