Sent via e-mail
19 February 2015
Rt Hon Mr Jeremy Hunt
Dear Mr Hunt
Re: Review into NHS whistleblowing led by Sir Robert Francis QC
I had written to you on 30 May 2014, of my desperate case as a NHS whistle-blower (https://sharmilachowdhury.com/2014/06/03/letter-to-jeremy-hunt-2-help-justice-for-sharmila-chowdhury/)
You subsequently after much media pressure, commissioned the review into NHS whistleblowing, led by Sir Robert Francis. Although many were sceptical about this, quite rightly as it now transpires, some of us were naively optimistic.
Although we were advised that the investigation was ‘an independent review’, on hindsight one would have to question whether Sir Robert Francis, who is a non-executive director of CQC, is really ‘independent.’
After much anticipation and delays of over three months, the report was finally published.
To my huge disappointment and those of other NHS whistleblowers, none of the essential requirements necessary to protect a whistle-blower was recommended in the report.
For me these were key failures:
1. No recognition of parts played by CQC and DH during whistleblowing cases. Yet nearly all NHS whistleblowers, I have come across, have sought help from both CQC and DH who have been turned away stating it’s ‘an employment issue’ and ‘therefore cannot get involved’. This practice I have no doubt will continue.
2. No recommendation for a public inquiry into historic cases. This was almost unanimously seen as a vital step forward by whistleblowers and their supporters. Without a public inquiry there is no transparency and no learning from cases.
3. No recommendation for intervention when a whistleblower faces employment dispute – which is nearly always the case following raising concerns. Failure to implement interventions will mean, nothing will change and whistle-blowers will continue to face hefty legal costs, the public will continue to fund Trusts’ cover-ups. These may drag on for years. By which time careers of whistle-blowers have been destroyed, homes are lost and health are damaged. Patients will also have lost a valued member of staff and taxpayers have lost vast sums of money. More importantly, patients will continue to be placed at risk.
4. No redress for suffering whistleblowers. I had asked for reinstatement of full income and pension in cases where there is a career loss. Despite now having a full knowledge what whistleblowers endure you have shamefully chosen to do nothing. Some whistle-blowers are totally destitute.
This is despite it being recommended recently by the Health Select Committee, ‘We expect the NHS to respond in a timely, honest and open manner to patients, and we must expect the same for staff. We recommend that there should be a programme to identify whistle-blowers who have suffered serious harm and whose actions are proven to have been vindicated, and provide them with an apology and practical redress.’
5. There is no help available with legal expenses when whistleblowers face ruin due to extensive legal battle. This contrasts with fulsome support afforded to Trusts, with the approval of DH and the Treasury. Highlighting this hypocrisy, current cases show that this purse remains wide open to Trusts.
6. There will be no ‘Independent’ Governing body who will investigate whistleblowing cases. By ‘independent’ I refer to an organisation outside the remit of DH and CQC, who have previously failed to support whistleblowers. Having a workplace ‘guardian’ is hardly independent and will be of no value and will do little to encourage confidence. Additionally having an independent National Officer will not provide effective support – ‘to advise NHS organisations to take appropriate action where they have failed …..’
7. No recommendation for help with jobs of same stature and income. Page 26 Principle 12 as you know is wholly inadequate.
I had already written to you on this matter as this is an example I have found myself in. ‘Finding an alternative employment’ is simply not good enough. Trusts being forced to take on a whistleblower does not bode well. Neither is it good for a whistleblower to be forced into a job which is not their background or expertise. This leads to stress and a strained relationship with their employer, and bullying can result.
If alternative posts are to be found then these posts need to be permanent and of same pay, expertise and stature to the one lost. If whistleblowers are ill and or de-skilled, they should also be fully supported with either rehabilitation, with pay, and or a fair pension, as appropriate. The bottom line is, it should be clear to all that whistleblowing does not result in loss.
Imagine Mr Hunt finding yourself losing your job and someone finds you an alternative post in something completely unrelated. For example, taxi driving or selling fast food, at minimum wage. Would you be happy or feel grateful?
8. There is no robust recommendation for swiftly holding to account the many corrupt individuals who covered up. This is despite reams of evidence that Sir Robert accepted was consistent and credible. In my own case, those who victimised me, and covered up fraud, remain happily employed.
I am enclosing a link to an article on response to Francis’s review.
You have listened to us but have continued to ignore our request for genuine help.
Personally, I continue to face a very uncertain future whilst suffering from cancer. I may be homelessness in due course. Yet, you have chosen not to intervene. Additionally, you have refused to organise an independent investigation into my raised concerns. This shows the hollowness of the review exercise, and the government’s response.
Those that were responsible for possible fraud and my dismissal are still in employment. The lack of accountability sends a clear message that one can bully and get away with it.
You have turned your back on NHS whistleblowers and by doing this you have also turned your back on vulnerable patients, who depend and trust staff to speak up when they see wrongdoings. You have also failed the tax paying public whose hard earned monies continue to be wasted.
I urge that you reconsider your actions and offer genuine help to NHS whistleblowers, and to re-open cases through a full Public Inquiry.
With Kind regards