You make think it’s far-fetched, the thought that an NHS employee can be blacklisted by Trusts. But it’s true, it does exist. The whistle-blower isn’t just blacklisted by their own Trust, but other Trusts, who were not included in the whistleblowing.
Having lost my job as a whistle-blower, I was constantly looking for alternative employment. I had won Interim Relief Hearing by that stage and was so proven that I was unfairly dismissed directly due to my whistleblowing. So, there were no wrongdoings on my part.
For me the most important thing was to find work and resume a normal existence. I had applied for numerous jobs, including in the private sector, without success. I had managed to get one temporary work for a short period to undertake a project. This temporary post only came about as a result of a referral from a friend.
About couple of years ago, I applied to a nearby Trust, (for now I will leave this Trust nameless). For my interview, I took copies of my CV to hand to the panel members and a folder with my whistleblowing background. The reason I took the folder was to be upfront about my past and so there is no loss in trust in me if they at a later date discover my whistleblowing past. They basically employ me with their ‘eyes open.’
The interview went well. Panel members consisted of Radiologists and a manager with clinical background – previous post holder, of the one I was being interviewed for. Basically, all clinical staff. At the interview, it seemed they had already done their research into me and were very supportive. They had clearly spoken to their clinical colleagues at Ealing. They didn’t look at my folder, and they already knew I was a whistle-blower.
The following day I received a call to say that I was being offered the post and they will give me all the support I needed to return to working. It was a wonderful phone call. I received an offer letter few days later, which contained the usual terms of being subject to occupational health clearance. I was so excited, I contacted my lawyer, Julie Morris, who was on holiday at the time to let her know. When Julie returned, I had to see her at her office about some paperwork. Whilst I was there, I spoke to James Laddie, QC, who was on the phone to Julie while I was there. He wished me the very best and was really happy for me.
About couple of weeks later I received a call from the Trust’s HR manager, asking me as to whether I had informed my current Trust that I was leaving. I explained that I was no longer in direct correspondence with my Trust but have let my lawyers know. To which he replied that the Trust (one applied for) did not want anyone who had disputes with their current employer.
Few days later, I received a letter stating that they are withdrawing their offer of employment offer. Yes, I could have taken further action regarding this underhand action. However, I was legally fighting Ealing Trust with already a massive legal bill of £110, 000 at that time, and I didn’t feel I could fight yet another Trust for their wrongdoing. So, I let it be.
On Tuesday 8 April 2014, agency I was registered with, organised an interview at the same Trust for a 3 month temporary post as an Imaging Manager. Same post as the one I had applied for, which was then permanent couple of years ago. Although at first I hesitated, I hoped that the Trust would have by now moved forward with their treatment of whistle-blowers. The agent said the Trust was really interested in me and that I had a very good chance of being offered the post. I dropped off relevant paperwork at the agency and prepared myself for the interview.
On the morning of the interview, I received a phone call from the agency, advising me that HR has withdrawn the interview, even though the staff member who they were dealing with was interested in interviewing me. HR apparently did not give any reasons apart from the fact that I had applied before to the Trust. The HR manager apparently remembered my previous application. Sir David Prior, CQC, intervened and wrote to the Chief Executive at the time but without success. I was devastated that I wasn’t even interviewed and was made to feel like a criminal.
Clearly I had been blacklisted. The same Trust has behaved in this manner twice, despite being the strong or even the strongest candidate for the job.
I have applied for numerous jobs without success. I went to an interview at another Trust – again being advised that I was the strongest candidate. I had undertaken extensive work in preparation for the interview. After the interview, the post was withdrawn.
At another trust, I have had interview cancelled on the day, again having extensively prepared for the interview.
Blacklisting of NHS staff is not uncommon. Surgeon Edwin Jesudason faced similar situation of being blacklisted. Such a highly skilled man of integrity has been victimised by the NHS as a result of whistleblowing, which he did in order to protect his patients. Losing Edwin from the NHS is a great loss to patients .
Another case is that of whistleblower Kate Clarke, who exposed agency nurses dozing whilst being paid at £648 for their shift. Kate now cleans tables at a fast food restaurant unable to find work in NHS.
I have yet to see a dismissed NHS whistleblower resume their career within UK. In some instances staff had to take drastic steps and immigrate abroad in order to prevent being left on the scrapheap. Stephen Bolsin is a good example of this. His is not an unusual case. I know of other highly skilled whistleblowers who are also preparing to do the same, causing disruption and upset to their family and friends. Skills continue to be drained from the NHS.
Recent Freedom to Speak up, FTSU, Review, led by Sir Robert Francis who looked into whistleblowing in the NHS recommended in page 17:
Principle 12 – Support to find alternative employment in the NHS Where a NHS worker who has raised a concern cannot, as a result, continue in their current employment, the NHS should fulfil its moral obligation to offer support.
The report goes on to say:
‘A number of people leave their employment, either voluntarily or otherwise, after raising a concern. Some then find it difficult to find another job. The NHS can operate as a monopoly employer in many fields, and a contentious parting of the ways can result in an individual being disadvantaged when applying for a new role, without the full facts of a case being known. This is unfair on individuals, and a waste of valuable skills and resource to the NHS.’
The report recommends:
‘There needs to be a support scheme for staff who are having difficulty finding employment and can demonstrate that this is related to having made a protected disclosure, and about whom there are no issues of justifiable and significant concern about their performance. This should be run jointly by NHS England, the NHS TDA and Monitor, and should be supported by all NHS organisations.’
It will be a year in February 2016, since the publication of FTSU.
I have yet to see an NHS whistleblower who has suffered from career destruction, to have been found a permanent solution by either a restart of their lost career or a satisfactory resolution whereby their lost income and pension have been reinstated.
To demonstrate commitment to supporting NHS staff and patients, we need more than words, policies and recommendations. We need effective and visible actions.