NHS Whistleblowers: Persecuted and trashed by managers to cover up patient safety issues

Issue much more widespread than the public realise

The recent Dispatches programme and article in the Times by journalist Matthew Syed highlighted the plight of whistleblowers in the NHS citing the case of Peter Duffy, a consultant surgeon, working for the Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust. Faced with failures at the trust in the emergencies department he expressed concern for two patients who subsequently died from kidney sepsis.

One would have expected the Trust to have remedied the situation. Instead they turned on him rather than admit any failings. As he told Matthew Syed: ” I was on the receiving end of allegations of bullying, abuse and racism. And so what I hoped would be an attempt to raise standards became an investigation of myself”.

It took five years of toxic attacks and tribunal hearings before he won his case for constructive dismissal. The sad thing is that this is not some isolated instance but appears to be growing in an NHS that is more concerned with its reputation than the safety of patients in its care and is preparing to spend millions of taxpayers money on lawyers fees to undermine any cases brought by whistleblowers. Furthermore it is prepared to spend literally years to wear down anybody who puts their face above the parapet.

Dr Usha Prasad

Readers of this blog will be aware of the case of Usha Prasad, a popular and competent cardiologist ( the General Medical Council has recently revalidated her) who has been driven out of the Epsom and St Helier University Health Trust ( now merged with St George’s Health Trust),

Today she starts a 16 day employment tribunal hearing as a whistleblower. She is backed by Dr Sola Odimuyiwa, from the hospital trust and two retired eminent cardiologists, Professor Jane Somerville and Dr David Ward, who believe her case is just one example of a malign system designed to cover up failures in the NHS. This week the latter two sent a letter to the Sunday Times which was edited down for publication. This is the full text:

“We thank Matthew Syed (Comment Oct 24) for his frank exposure of some of the “mistakes and weaknesses” of the NHS of which the persecution of medical whistle-blowers, as shown by the heinous story of the consultant surgeon, Mr Peter Duffy. He is one example of many.

It is a doctor’s duty of candour to draw attention to matters which are not safe for patients. This action, in good faith, prevents accidents thereby protecting patients. Hospital Trusts may not respond favourably to such complaints and may use their unbridled powers to instigate prolonged, expensive and vengeful disciplinary processes.

Medicine has learnt some of the lessons from aviation safety but the fair and open treatment of whistle-blowers is not one of them. Hospital Trusts are able to fund these processes because they can access public funds not available to the whistle-blower which is a gross imbalance of power. Shady external “management consultants”, who operate by their own rules, and expensive legal firms are hired by Trusts at great expense with the sole aim of ensuring the dismissal of the troublesome whistle-blower. This certainly affects the recruitment and retention of doctors the NHS so badly needs.

A serious consequence of this nefarious process has been the emergence of a cover-up culture in which the initial deficiencies or ‘protected disclosures’ are inadequately investigated.  There is no oversight or regulation of the way Trusts investigate whistleblowers. What informal processes there are may have been designed deliberately to avoid or deflect scrutiny. We have been unable to find a body or organisation to whom to report a Trust’s bad treatment of a whistle-blower. Attempts by supporters of whistle-blowers to engage higher regulatory bodies such as NHS England are usually met with indifference.

For the victimised, whistle-blowing doctor the outcome can be devastating. Their careers are stolen from them. The reputational damage prevents them from securing another job. Serious physical and mental health problems are not uncommon and family lives are destroyed.

We think the investigation of NHS whistle-blowers, of which there have been many notable cases over the past decade, should open and accountable. It is a scandal unknown by the wider public and in need of an independent inquiry.”

A national problem

You can see they believe this is a national problem not an isolated case. It can be backed up by a roll call of cases ( some of which are not yet finished). You can click on the stories reported in various newspapers to get an idea of the scale of toxicity on this issue.

Whistleblowing cases

Dr Raj Mattuhttps://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/feb/04/dismissed-nhs-whistleblower-who-exposed-safety-concerns-handed-122m
Dr David Drewhttps://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/feb/11/nhs-whistleblowers-the-staff-who-raised-the-alarmhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Little-Stories-Life-Death-NHSwhistleblowr/dp/1783065230?asin=1783065230&revisionId=&format=4&depth=1
Dr Kevin Beatthttps://www.standard.co.uk/news/health/nhs-to-pay-ps870-000-to-whistleblower-doctor-who-spoke-out-on-patient-safety-a4384211.html
Dr Chris Dayhttps://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/oct/02/nhs-whistleblowing-protection-tribunal-junior-doctors
Dr Ed Jesudason https://www.drphilhammond.com/blog/2018/06/28/private-eye/private-eye-medicine-balls-1468-march-16-2018/
Mr Peter Duffyhttps://the-medical-negligence-experts.co.uk/lancaster-surgeon-peter-duffy-nhs-whistleblower-book/
Dr Claire Connollyhttps://www.rllaw.co.uk/success-at-tribunal-for-nhs-whistleblower-dr-claire-connolly/
Dr Minh Alexander, who hosts a blog site about whistleblowing having been one herselfhttps://minhalexander.com
Pandemic whistleblowers inchttps://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/coronavirus-uk-nhs-ppe-whistleblowers-job-losses-ppe-a9515856.html
Dr Usha Prasadhttps://davidhencke.com/?s=Prasad&submit=Search
Mr David Sellu, a surgeon in the private sector, was treated badly but he was not a whistleblower just a victim of the judiciaryhttps://www.theguardian.com/global/2019/jun/16/they-look-for-a-scapegoat-a-sugeons-battle-to-clear-his-name-dr-david-sellu

But this is not the end of it by many means. Since I took up Dr Prasad’s case I have become aware through a new group. Doctors for Justice, that there are as many as 35, yes 35, other cases. Nearly all the doctors at the moment are requesting confidentiality until their case becomes public at an employment tribunal hearing. There are many, many other doctors who have quietly quit trusts to find work elsewhere because they don’t want to have to fight their employers for years on end.

Under this system it is the patient that pays the price – and in a number of cases the ultimate price – death. That is why this blog is going to keep an eye on what is going on the NHS until someone has the guts to reform the system and take on a bureaucracy that seems more interested in preserving its reputation than improving patient safety.

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21 thoughts on “NHS Whistleblowers: Persecuted and trashed by managers to cover up patient safety issues

  1. Hi David,
    Just looked at the latest blog. You have put up the shortened edited (by me) version of our letter to the ST. Did you mean to put up the “uncensored” version which I sent you?
    All good stuff!
    PS I will forward the unedited version again

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. The patients or their relatives who complain are also ‘whistleblowers’. Their route is to first complain to the NHS Trust concerned. The many of these complaints are also subjected to ‘cover up’. If the complainant is dissatisfied, they have two options. Either escalate the complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) or seek damages for clinical negligence.

    PHSO uphold a tiny percentage of complaints received and has been subject of much criticism over the years (see website PHSOthetruestory.com). NHS Resolution spends approximately £4 Billion – YES BILLION on legal fees each year contesting legal claims. There are the compensation payments on top of that. It is all taxpayers money.

    People who suffer harm as a result of clinical negligence should rightly be compensated. However, there is no excuse for the cover up culture.

    Three reports were issued in the latter half of 2020 concerning health matters.

    The Cumberlege report highlighted a ‘disjointed, siloed, unresponsive and defensive culture’.
    Dr. Bill Kirkup, reporting on the life and death of Elizabeth Dixon stated ‘The most troubling aspect of compiling this report has been the clear evidence that some individuals have been persistently dishonest’. The Ockenden report into Shrewsbury and Telford Maternity Services found ‘There have been cases where women were blamed for their loss and this further compounded their grief’.

    The Ombudsman service was described by the Patients Association as unfit for purpose some five years ago. It still is. The Government promised reform at that time but that has been kicked into the long grass. Medical staff should not be afraid to speak out but your blog shows how difficult a decision it is for an individual to put their head above the parapet.

    An independent and impartial investigative body is required. The confidence of medical professionals and public alike will only return if such a body is formed with power to take an investigation out of the hands of the Trusts at a very early stage. The politicians cannot turn a deaf ear to this vital issue for ever and I for one will never understand why they see benefit in doing so.

    Your readers might like to know that the work of the Ombudsman is due to be scrutinised by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee on 23rd November


      • Thanks David. Finding a name to encompass everyone who is affected, including nurses as commented by ridingtherollercoaster, can only be of benefit. It can only be a good thing for people who are involved to contribute their different perspectives to a major joint effort to bring about improvement. The NHS should not be allowing good employees to go to waste just for speaking the truth. It is the managers who should be dismissed if tribunal cases go against them and they should also barred from holding similar positions. That would concentrate minds!


    • Anons ‘killed’ my Great Aunt with a penicillin overdose, knowing damn well she was allergic. It’s in her notes…they shout it about all over the place and even publish on internet these days whilst claiming it’s all confidential. I would accept manslaughter charges at a minimum/ best case scenario but can’t even get an investigation or ID any of the perps involved. They killed my Gran and I suspect also my grandad. I wonder if it’s a deliberate policy of killing old people or just incompetence.
      I can’t even go through the ombudsman or any other complain channels as I have no papers! Can’t do anything without state sanctioned photo ID these days and consenting to be on their DBs/ facial tracking/ dna sniffers….
      Many inside the system are threatened with being ‘sectioned’ if they talk, some have been.
      I’ve also had the crazy label applied as part of the cover up…so nobody listens to you after that. That’s part of the point, along with sadistic torture.
      I also remember a story run by David’s former employer. Eccy de Jonge. Never been very good with names…but that one did stick in the mind, although I probably haven’t spelt it right. Her mother was killed in a supposed road accident. Now, like in many cases, pigyobs had signs up ordering any witnesses to contact them regarding this ‘accident’. Now the more astute amongst you will be thinking i’m sure…..why would they want witnesses to contact them is they had already decided it was an accident. If it weren’t to SILENT those witnesses, what other possible reason can there be? Well, Eccy was trying to campaign for a proper investigation…until pigyobs tried to section her. Fortunately for her she had powerful friends who managed to put a stop to that….still managed to silence her though. No proper investigation actually happened. Also, presumably the only reason the Guardian was ‘allowed’ to run that story was because they were unsuccessful in their plan. Of course, the tens of thousands now + other victims didn’t have any powerful friends and could not escape the torture and chemical labotomy…..consequently, you’ll never get to read about those stories.
      Over decade and a half for me homeless, destitute and in chronic pain. Last best hope is a quick and relatively painless death.


  3. These are the doctors, what about all the nurses who have suffered huge turmoil professionally and personally as a result of whistle blowing. The health service has always been like this, I trained in the 80’s it was happening then, it happened to me! 40 years on it’s still happening it’s more than time for it to be banished for good.

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Hi, yes well aware of this and it doesn’t preclude me taking up nurses cases if I hear about them. Also as a former member of the Gosport War Memorial Independent Panel I know the role nurses played in whistleblowing the over prescription of drugs. If only their warnings had been taken up it would have saved elderly patients


  4. Pingback: NHS Whistle-blowers: Persecuted and trashed by managers to cover up patient safety issues – Europe Renaissance

  5. This problem was addressed in the 1980’s in a high profile case involving a nurse whistleblower, Grham Pink, pre internet he still became well known and supported by nursing at large but was sacked by his hospital management on a trumped up charge of breaching patient confidentiality, although he never had, he won his appeal but never worked again.


  6. This is Disgusting with a Specialist Consultant Dr Usha Prasad. I didn’t expect such kind of behaviour from NHS.
    Terrible. Black day has come for NHS


  7. This is Ridiculous. Where is BMA ? Not helping a Experienced Consultant DR Usha Prasad. Not Good we want Justice for Dr Usha Prasad. BMA wake up??


    • They are all together CEO and HR to preserve their highly paid jobs taken by promotions not by interviews like everybody else. This is happened because the recruitment discrimination in NHS, they give big jobs to friends and family members.


  8. Diligent and hardworking doctors are penalised in NHS over years for standing up for patient safety. It exploits public fund to brush all these cases under the carpet, whist the doctor pays for it through loss of their personal, mental health, financial damage. Loss of professional credentials are detrimental for many. Lots of doctors in past have succumbed to these ordeal. Sadly most of them are immigrants and from BAME communities.
    It’s very important to give the right platform and exposing this evil in NHS! The funding wasted annually can help improve patient care instead.
    I wish best wishes for success to Dr Usha to succeed so the future generations are benefited from the justice and help regain faith in the judicial system.


  9. I’m also starting to wonder if this is all distraction so the media doesn’t talk much about those who risked their lives during the plandemic and are now being fired on mass for refusing experimental gene modification thing. There’s got to be a reason why they haven’t just made it ‘compulsory’, like the HEP V vaccine….but then again adults are better at physically defending themselves than tiny little girls, who often end up ‘fate worse than death’ for next 80 years + because of it….


  10. Sheer hypocrisy of NHS executives to continually ask for more funding whilst blowing billions trying to cover up mistakes and errors. Whistleblowers should be protected and the issues they raise acted on and not covered up.
    An independent and impartial body should be responsible for acting on whistleblowers concerns and anyone found to be negligent should face an appropriate sanction.

    Not surprised BMA are not getting involved – they are part of the same cosy club.


  11. A group of doctors made mainly of whistleblowers who had the courage to speak up and raise concerns about patients’ safety and system failures. Each and every one of those committed doctors believed that by speaking up and reporting inadequacies in patients’ care, they will be supported and encouraged. Instead, the tables were turned against them and unfounded claims were raised against them and soon, they found themselves driven out of their jobs and no one to save them and their families. It is very worrying to discover, that there is a pattern across the NHS followed by many hospitals across the country as discovered by a recently formed group ‘Justice for Patients and Health Professionals.’ The public, as well as the medical profession, are unaware of the magnitude of the problem and how NHS funds were abused by those who were appointed in positions of trust and power to run our NHS hospitals. There are systematic failures to adhere to the due process by the hospital managers and the HR personnel as whistleblowing doctors were taken one by one through irregular procedures to discredit, bully and harass to give up their legitimate right in protecting their patients. Those in charge of running our NHS hospitals are more interested in their image and reputation than patient safety and medical care. It is time that the medical profession and the public become engaged to protect doctors and health professionals who have spoken and come forward to report system failures. Dr. Usha Prasad is an example of many decent and courageous doctors who chose to stand up and come forward to raise their serious concerns to avoid errors and save patients. We wish to end our comments with a quotation by the famous physicist, Albert Einstein, “THE WORLD IS A DANGEROUS PLACE NOT BECAUSE OF THOSE WHO DO EVIL BUT BECAUSE OF THOSE WHO LOOK ON AND DO NOTHING.”
    Please join our support for Dr. Usha Prasad.
    From: Justice for Patients and Health Professionals
    11th November 2021


  12. Who do senior most managers in the NHS get unrestricted access to public money to persecute doctors and nurses who raise clinical safety concerns? Why are there no regulatory bodies to audit the wastage of tax payers money spent on employment tribunals by NHS and other public authorities?

    I was in a similar situation where after raising concerns about patient suicides and resisting pressure for unsafe discharge of patients , I was subjected to an unfair and biased investigation which almost destroyed my career and tarnished my mental health forever. I noted that most of these biased investigations are generally around “ conduct “ rather than clinical negligence.

    My union pretended to support me but they couldn’t even write any letters of support with correct legal terms or advice such that when my Solictor read he laughed out loud telling me that my claim has some very basic faults as correct legal terms were not written by the Union when they drafted my letters addressed to the hospital.


  13. Whistleblowing needs to come with a health warning, a support group and unfortunately an exit plan! Raising concerns to seniors around you and freedom to speak up guardians is ineffective and open to abuse. Services investigate and sanitise reports themselves with the whistleblower frozen out and unable to confirm if the concerns have actually been investigated and addressed or if the service response is an outright deflection. Relevant evidence is misconstrued and/or excluded regardless of the numbers, SIs and other staff corroborating concern. I’m a senior NHS manager and very naïvely thought I could raise service concerns and be supported to resolve these. I did not expect the silence, denial, excessive workload to fix what is being denied, scapegoating, more denial. I did not expect the personal impact to get so close to suicide just to be heard. The lack of transparency and support is breathtaking.


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