On Wednesday 14th January 2015, I was invited as a guest by my local Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate, Rupa Huq, as being recognized as a local hero. This was alongside another hero from Ealing, Audrey Jones. The reception was hosted by Ed Miliband at Westminster.
I was allowed a guest. I naturally took Fiona Bell. Well, who else? Maybe Minh Alexander or Martyn Halle? As we waited for Rupa, at Westminster tube, we saw none other than the very distinguished, Sir Robert Francis QC, who many will know is undertaking review on NHS whistleblowing. The report was scheduled for December. However, we are still waiting.
Sir Francis was surprised to see us and asked if we were waiting for him. To which we replied ‘No’ and Fiona added, ‘but we’re waiting for the report’. Sir Francis replied, ‘Aren’t we all!’ So, is the report done but the hold up is at Hunt’s end? Possibly. Thinking about it, maybe Hunt is the very person who Sir Francis may have gone to visit – after all Sir Francis’ office is not based at Westminster. However, we can only speculate.
Back to the local heroes event. We queued and got checked in. The gathering was very relaxed and welcoming. Various MPs had invited heroes from their constituency. To my knowledge this is the first time a whistleblower has been recognized formally as a ‘hero’ instead of being labelled as a ‘troublemaker’, snitch’ or something worse. In most instances ignored by governing bodies.
This is a step forward for NHS whistleblowing. It’s not a party political matter as far as I am concerned. It’s time for all MPs to recognise their local NHS whistleblowers as ‘heroes’, so it’s something that is acknowledged and valued and not something that is a punishable offence, as is currently the case.
Whilst whistleblowers are persecuted, it sends a warning example to other staff. As a result patients lives are placed at risk as staff who would otherwise report wrongdoings/concerns remain silent, so compromising patient/staff safety.
In my case I reported fraud. Despite evidence, governing bodies have ignored both my concerns and my treatment as a whisleblower. £5bn a year is lost to NHS fraud. Yet, it seems there is no interest to investigate.
I also received the lovely message below:
It’s time for change. I hope this is a start of many NHS whistleblowers ‘heroes’ who should be recognised for the personal sacrifices they have made in order to protect patients and the public.
Time for recognition. Time also for understanding of how whistleblowing goes wrong, and what the system should do differently in the future. All of Westminster needs to genuinely engage with the whistleblowing agenda, and prioritise better governance for the good of the public. Above all, what we need is practical action, and that is what I campaign for.
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