Dear Mr Hunt,
Following article published in the HSJ this week:
I received two prompt responses to letters I had written asking for help some time back. Clearly, my open letter had focussed some minds.
I received the following from NHS England on behalf of Simon Stevens to letter written to him on 13 November 2015- nearly two months ago:
Subject: RE: NHS England CAS-100042
Date: Wed, 6 Jan 2016 09:36:06 +0000
Thank you for writing to NHS England and sharing your experiences. I am very sorry that you have faced such difficulties in securing an appropriate position within the NHS. Please also accept my apologies for the delay in our reply.
As you know, Sir Robert Francis recommended that Monitor, TDA and NHS England establish an employment support scheme to help whistleblowers whose performance is sound return to work in the NHS. Although you have had some help from the TDA, your experiences have highlighted the fact that there is no systematic approach at present to assisting whistleblowers who are having difficulty in securing employment.
We have been speaking to whistleblowers, employers and regulators about the design of a support scheme and will be sharing proposals shortly, as well as consulting the new National Freedom to Speak Up Guardian when they take up their appointment.. There are a number of elements to the scheme and some complexities we need to work through but our aim is for this to become operational early in the new financial year. You ask about NHS England’s role in relation to employment support. Beyond designing and commissioning the scheme with Monitor and TDA, I expect that NHS England will seek to help place whistleblowers from primary care and NHS Improvement will take on this role for whistleblowers from NHS Trusts. This reflects our roles in relation to the wider system.
I know that Neil Churchill has been in touch with you and I understand that your situation is urgent. Neil has raised your case with both TDA and Monitor and has kept me informed. Your experiences have certainly underlined the urgency with which we need to fill the gap in the system identified by Sir Robert.
I do hope you find work soon and that your health improves.
Customer Contact Centre Case Officer
I then received the following response today from Sarah Wollaston, who I had also written for help in September and in October:
House of Commons London SW1A 0AA
From Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chair
Letter by e-mail to Sharmila.chowdhury
8 January 2016
Dear Ms Chowdhury
Thank you for your further correspondence of 17 September and 11 October. I am sorry that it has taken some time to respond.
While I am sorry to hear that your situation remains very difficult, as I explained when I wrote to you in July, it is outside the Health Committee’s remit to take action on individual cases. I am pleased to learn that you are obtaining assistance from your constituency MP, Rupa Huq.
As you are aware, in a speech he gave in February last year the Secretary of State announced that the Government would legislate to protect whistleblowers applying for NHS jobs from discrimination from prospective employers and that Monitor, the TDA and NHS England would provide practical help to whistleblowers seeking future employment. Those three bodies are currently seeking views on a draft whistleblowing policy for the NHS and would like to hear from former and current NHS staff. Details of the consultation are available at:
In addition, the Care Quality Commission has just announced that it has appointed its first national guardian for the freedom to speak up within the NHS.
I hope that the steps being taken provide some reassurance to you that progress is being made in this area as the Government responds to issues raised both in Parliament and by Sir Robert Francis in his ‘Freedom to Speak Up’ review.
Dr Sarah Wollaston MP
Chair of the Committee
Rupa Huq when she brought up my case had been advised in Parliament to discuss my case with you Mr Hunt.
I am unclear how the National Guardian will be of help to me or any other suffering whistleblower.
I received the following from Department of Health in response to my letter to you:
Ms Sharmila Chowdhury By email
From Ben Gummer MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State fff Care Quality
1 2 NOV 2015
Thank you for your correspondence of 18 and 25 October to Jeremy 1–lunt about your employment situation at Imperial Healthcare NHS Trust.
I was sorry to read of your continuing concerns. I note that you have written directly to Dr Kathy McLean, Medical Director at the NI–IS Trust Development Authority (NHS TDA) to raise these matters.
My officials have again contacted the NHS TDA for further information about your situation. I am informed that your contract of employment with Imperial Healthcare
has been extended until the end of November to enable you to complete work projects.
I understand that the NHS TDA intends to respond separately.
I am sure you are pleased at the extension of your contract and I would acknowledge the positive role of the NHS TDA and the Trust in supporting you during this period of uncertainty.
I am aware that you have applied for roles in other NHS organisations and you are of course free to apply for roles within Imperial Healthcare. I hope you secure a suitable role so n.
I wonder which roles Ben Gunner from your office was referring to? Clearly he has some inside knowledge. I was advised by senior manager at The Imperial there were no suitable vacancies. The same information was given by The Imperial to the Trust development Authority.
Hence I faced redundancy once again – without of course any compensation. First time was when I whistle blew at Ealing Hospital which followed dismissal, then reinstatement and subsequent redundancy.
Sir Francis Freedom to Speak up Review was published on 11 February 2015, nearly a year ago. on page 153:
‘I believe that there is an urgent need for an employment support scheme for NHS staff and former staff who are having difficulty finding employment in the NHS who can demonstrate that this is related to having made protected disclosures and that there are no outstanding issues of justifiable and significant concern relating to their performance. This should be devised and run jointly by NHS England, the NHS Trust Development Authority and Monitor.’
I received the above response from NHS England. So, they are not in a position to help. The following response was sent to my MP by Trust Development Authority:
18th November 2015
Dr Rupa Huq MP
Member of Parliament for Ealing Central and Acton
Dear Dr Rupa Huq MP
Re: Ms Sharmila Chowdhury
Thank you for your letter of 23 October to Bob Alexander on behalf of your constituent Ms Sharmila Chowdhury about her employment situation within the NHS, I am responding on his behalf. I understand that you have also received correspondence from Ben Gummer MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Care Quality, regarding Ms Chowdhury’s employment situation.
By way of background, I met with Ms Chowdhury last year to discuss with her the issues she was facing and to support her, where I could, in seeking employment in the NHS. Following that, I facilitated a link between her and Professor Chris Harrison, Medical Director at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, to consider if there were any opportunities within the Trust that could be suitable.
As a result of that Ms Chowdhury accepted an offer of employment at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust as a business manager for undergraduate medical education. This was a fixed term role for 12 months that was due to come to an end at the beginning of November this year.
The job has evolved during that time and her contract has since been extended to the end of November to allow her to complete some project work. Like many other Trusts the financial challenges at Imperial mean there are a limited number of new vacancies either fixed term or permanent and a high level of competition for those that do come up. Nevertheless the Trust continue to offer Ms Chowdhury support and advice with finding further employment as they would any other member of staff in the same situation.
Ms Chowdhury asks in her note to me, that you have enclosed, if her pension and income can be reinstated to the level that it was before her whistleblowing case. I have replied to Ms Chowdhury to explain that that is not in my power to do (I enclose my response to her with this letter).
I do recognise this is a difficult time for Ms Chowdhury and her health concerns will of course exacerbate that but feel as if I have, at this stage, taken things as far as I can in supporting her to improve her situation.
Dr. Kathy McLean
NHS TDA Medical Director
So TDA like NHS England are unable to help. That leaves Monitor. According to some twitter exchanges, Monitor is ‘thinking’ but nothing has been set up with regards to helping whistleblowers. So, they too are not in a position to help.
I also recently received the following letter on 18 December 2015 from TDA:
Thank you for your email. I’m pleased to hear that you’ve found our previous discussions helpful.
I’m also pleased to hear about the positive impact you were able to have during your time at Imperial.
I recognise this remains an uncertain time for you and the constraints at Imperial are of course not unique in the system at this time. As I mentioned previously, I’m afraid there is nothing further I am able to do from here.
I do wonder whether in light of the type of role you say you are interested in, you might consider contacting the Care Quality Commission who have a statutory role in relation to whistleblowers.
I do wish you all the best in your efforts.
Dr Kathy McLean
NHS Trust Development Authority
TDA have recommended I try CQC.
I am clearly the parcel from the game of ‘pass the parcel’. Unfortunately I am the parcel that no one wants.
There is indeed a pattern emerging with all of these correspondences. One of ‘circle’ and going round it.
I raised concerns with goodwill and with significant evidences. I have faced persecution. Where is the goodwill and kindness towards me?
Maybe it is hoped that I will go away quietly or maybe as I have cancer, they can bide their time. I am not going anywhere.
Whistleblowers need to be supported. They speak out because they care. Patients trust NHS staff to do their utmost to keep them safe. Public give up their hard earned money to the NHS also in trust which should also be kept safe.
Persecution as a result of speaking out is a basic breach of human rights.
So Mr Hunt, please could you tell me who is responsible for my desperate situation of facing homelessness with cancer as a result of whistleblowing, and who will provide me with urgent redress?