Patients at risk as thousands of safety warnings are ignored

6 December 2016     PAUL ROGERS/THE TIMES

Inspectors have acted slowly or not at all despite tens of thousands of NHS staff raising concerns about unsafe care. 

NHS inspectors are ignoring thousands of warnings a year from staff raising safety fears, an alliance of whistleblowers has claimed.

Those who speak out are “fired, gagged and blacklisted” while regulators do little to help, according to the group of doctors, inspectors and patients who exposed some of the biggest health scandals of the past two decades.

Tens of thousands of NHS staff have contacted the Care Quality Commission (CQC) about unsafe care yet inspectors acted slowly or not at all, leaving patients at risk, the group claims in a letter to The Times. They are calling for a US-style body to investigate on behalf of whistleblowers rather than leaving them to face the system alone.

The letter is signed by whistleblowers including Julie Bailey, who exposed the Stafford Hospital scandal; Stephen Bolsin, who warned of baby deaths at Bristol Royal Infirmary; and Amanda Pollard, a former CQC inspector who spoke out about its failure to spot poor care. It says that “many patients, bereaved relatives and whistleblowers have felt deeply frustrated that their disclosures to the CQC have not resulted in safe change” — despite repeated pledges by ministers and health officials to encourage and protect whistleblowers.

NHS inspectors are ignoring thousands of warnings a year from staff raising safety fears, an alliance of whistleblowers has claimed.

Those who speak out are “fired, gagged and blacklisted” while regulators do little to help, according to the group of doctors, inspectors and patients who exposed some of the biggest health scandals of the past two decades.

Tens of thousands of NHS staff have contacted the Care Quality Commission (CQC) about unsafe care yet inspectors acted slowly or not at all, leaving patients at risk, the group claims in a letter to The Times. They are calling for a US-style body to investigate on behalf of whistleblowers rather than leaving them to face the system alone.

The letter is signed by whistleblowers including Julie Bailey, who exposed the Stafford Hospital scandal; Stephen Bolsin, who warned of baby deaths at Bristol Royal Infirmary; and Amanda Pollard, a former CQC inspector who spoke out about its failure to spot poor care. It says that “many patients, bereaved relatives and whistleblowers have felt deeply frustrated that their disclosures to the CQC have not resulted in safe change” — despite repeated pledges by ministers and health officials to encourage and protect whistleblowers.

The CQC, which inspects hospitals, GPs and care homes, has taken at least 33,000 calls to its hotline for staff to raise concerns in the past five years. The letter’s signatories say no attempt has been made to use the data to spot patterns indicating problems such as short-staffing or faulty guidelines.

6 thoughts on “Patients at risk as thousands of safety warnings are ignored

  1. you say Those who speak out are “fired, gagged and blacklisted” while regulators do little to help,
    then doctors nurses need to show up these creatures who dismantle the nhs ready for sale yet untill all doctors stand up together then theres little hope left jeff3

  2. Members of the public don’t fair any better with the CQC either. I flagged up very serious safeguarding issues with them for over 3 years; I updated my complaints with them prior to their inspection of the MHS I was complaining about and they totally ignored everything I (and others) said. The inspector I was in contact with replied to my updated complaints without even reading them. They are as evasive and defensive as the rest of the system. They don’t hold ‘Listening Events’ prior to inspections of Mental Health Services and cherry pick where they get evidence for their inspections from. For instance they will seek evidence of complaints from CCG’s, Healthwatch etc. but fail to accept that none of these organisations are collecting complaints from services users. Seemingly the last people they seek evidence from is the service user and/or advocates. I have met with the CQC and given them 180 pages of evidence from service users and coroner’s reports and still they do nothing to reach some of the most vulnerable members of society. Like all the other organisations, they tell us to take our complaints to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, so we do and the results we get speak volumes about why we’re told to go there! And so we go around in ever decreasing circles of a system that finds it acceptable for people to die unnecessarily. Sadly there are SO many simple, cost effective, solutions but no one is listening. And although it’s of little comfort to whistleblowers who have lost everything in defence of others – their stories have helped me immensely over the years because they have given me the confidence and strength to carry of fighting something that is so very unacceptable in a humane society.

  3. I met with Dr Paul Lelliott CQC Deputy Inspector of MH and Jane Ray CQC London Hospital Lead for Inspections last week and reminded them that the remit they inherited from old Mental Health Act Commission (MHAC) has not been rescinded and they still have a Duty of Care to ”safeguard the interests of detained patients”
    HOW? do CQC do this?

    My son died under Duty of Care of States Agents (is the terminology)But it seems death is not considered “compelling” enough esp when Strategic Health Authority (SHA) produced a Report 5 YEARS after my sons death and decisions were made on a fundamentally flawed Inquest hearing………where ‘the work experience girl’ downloaded copies of documents the Trust had failed to submit, and shared them out as we sat!

    But never having the misfortune to attend an Inquest hearing before I really was overwhelmed and it took me a few days to draw together the injustice of it all.

    See, sadly my complaint is now deemed ‘Historic’ (but unresolved after over 11 YEARS) all I want is the truth and to prevent another family suffering as we have!
    The TRUTH may hurt but lies hurt more!

    • Delay Deny and Defend is a macabre game the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) & most health related public services now play (hence my complaint is now deemed Historic) and its interesting to note the PHSO ,Her deputy and her Director of Investigations have all resigned but the PHSO is staying on despite covering up her deputies corruption. Not sure why PHSO Director of Investigations has resigned YET!!but with Parliament acknowledging the NHS Complaints System isn’t working http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/health-committee/news/11-06-28-clreoprt-substantive-/ (note the date) and recommending PHSO seeks a role review her ‘discretionary powers’ overturned that! FACT; We pay over £32m per annum to provide an effective appeals process for the complaints system.
      WE HAVENT GOT ONE!

      • I couldn’t agree with more on both of your posts. So many bad experiences of the system and I have witnessed inhumanity at a level I never thought I would see in this country. Far too much to go into here I’m afraid. That said PACAC (the scrutiny committee for the PHSO) is meeting at Parliament on Tuesday 13th so the PHSO can answer questions on their latest report and accounts. I suspect it’s going to be a difficult session for Julie Mellor. The committee are still accepting written evidence until Friday the 9th, so if you have the strength left or the inclination it might be worth submitting to them. I wouldn’t have bothered, except for the fact that at last year’s meeting they were pretty tough on the PHSO. I am also giving oral evidence and have quite a lot to say about MHS, the PHSO and the system as a whole. We need some radical changes urgently and far more protection for vulnerable people.

  4. Pingback: NHS whistleblowing articles in 2016: TWO years post Francis Review with NO change | sharmilachowdhury

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