This is the response I have received to my open letter to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt which was published in Health Service Journal on 4 January.
I asked Health Service Journal to publish this response with my comments but was told it was not sufficiently newsworthy. I disagree profoundly with that view. The ongoing failure of Jeremy Hunt and the Department of Health to address the mistreatment whistleblowers is at the heart of the debate on NHS culture. That must be newsworthy.
I expressed my letter to Jeremy Hunt in terms of my own personal predicament and that of so many other whistleblowers in health and social care. It was a plea from the heart. Mr Hunt’s response is bureaucratic and unhelpful. Let me remind him what he told the House of Commons on 11 February 2015, the day the Francis Freedom to Speak Up report was published:
‘Sir Robert has confirmed the need for further change in his report today. He said he heard again and again of horrific stories of people’s lives being destroyed—people losing their jobs, being financially ruined, being brought to the brink of suicide and with family lives shattered—because they had tried to do the right thing for patients. Eminent and respected clinicians had their reputations maligned. There are stories of fear, bullying, ostracisation and marginalisation, as well as psychological and physical harm. There are reports of a culture of “delay, defend and deny”, with “prolonged rants” directed at people branded “snitches, troublemakers and backstabbers”, who were then blacklisted from future employment in the NHS as the system closed ranks.’
It is still, more than a year on, hard to accept that having recognised the way whistleblowers have suffered he has not lifted a finger to help one of us. We suffered all that because we tried to do the right thing for patients. And many of us continue to suffer. He acknowledged that we were blacklisted from NHS employment and promised assistance with getting back into work.
Mr Hunt’s claim that “NHS England is leading work to develop the Employment Support Scheme” may be true but nothing of practical importance has happened. Not one blacklisted whistleblower has been helped back into employment or provided with redress. And there is no sign of this happening soon.
It almost looks as if Jeremy Hunt wants to hold us up to the NHS workforce as an example of what happens when staff raise concerns. In a similar way his failure to hold accountable even one of the CEOs who he knows victimised us and drove us out of the NHS is a clear permit for them to keep up the good work.