The Telegraph By Laura Donnelly and agencies 21 Jan 2015
All NHS whistleblowers who are vindicated should be offered a personal apology, and ‘practical redress’ such as compensation or a new job, MPs say
The treatment of whistleblowers by the NHS is “a stain on its reputation” which has destroyed livelihoods and caused “inexcusable pain” to health professionals, MPs have warned.
The Commons Health Select Committee said repeated failures to listen to staff who warned of risks to patients is jeopardising safety and deterring others from blowing the whistle.
Its inquiry into complaints and raising concern said every NHS whistleblower who is vindicated should be given an apology, and “practical redress” – such as a new job, or financial compensation for the damage to their career.
The damning conclusions come as a separate review of whistleblowing considers more than 17,000 submissions about the treatment meted out to those who have tried to raise the alarm on poor care.
They include Dr Raj Mattu, a cardiologist, who was suspended for eight years, then sacked,
after raising concerns about patient safety. The heart specialist told he was “hounded mercilessly” out of his job at Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry, before winning an unfair dismissal tribunal last year.
Nurse Helene Donnelly told the Mid Staffs inquiry that she became frightened to leave work unaccompanied after warning managers at Stafford Hospital that targets were being manipulated.
In a damning report, MPs said the NHS needed to do far more to ensure staff with concerns felt able to speak out.
“The treatment of whistleblowers remains a stain on the reputation of the NHS and has led to unwarranted and inexcusable pain for a number of individuals,” the report warns.
“The treatment of those whistleblowers has not only caused them direct harm but has also undermined the willingness of others to come forward and this has ongoing implications for patient safety,” it warns.
MPs also called for major changes to the NHS system of complaints, saying there should be “one gateway” for all concerns by patients, regardless of whether their concern was about a hospital, GP or social care.
Dr Sarah Wollaston, chairman of the committee, said too often those raising concerns were “plagued by delays,” while lessons failed to be learned because cases were handled by call centres hundreds of miles away.
She said: “There can be no excuse for not implementing a complaints service which is easy to use and responsive to patients and their families but sadly the situation remains variable.”
The report calls for one” single, easily identified gateway for complainants” which passes complaints to the right place.
Dr Wollaston said too often, cases were passed from pillar to post, with one complaint about a doctor in the South West of the country ending up being handled first by an NHS centre in Leeds, and then diverted to London.
She said: “In the case of primary care for example, we do not feel that complaints should be investigated in an entirely different part of the country or plagued by delays.”
The report says a separate ongoing review of NHS whistleblowing, led by Sir Robert Francis QC, the barrister who led the public inquiry into Mid-Staffs, is now considering 17,500 online responses and more than 600 written submissions.