Exclusive: Are whistleblowers now too frit to reveal when NHS patients and care home residents are in danger?

dr-henrietta-hughes

Dr Henrietta Hughes, 4 day a week National Guardian Pic Credit: CQC

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Tucked away in a recent National Audit Office report on the NHS and social care regulator, the Care Quality Commission, is the extraordinary statistic that the number of whistleblowers who tipped off the regulator fell by a staggering 16 per cent to 7452 in 2016-17. That is one in six fewer whistleblowers than the previous year. See paragraph 2.19 of the report.

The figure compares with 153,000 members of the public – an increase of one per cent – expressing concerns about services during the same period.

I have written about this in Tribune this week.

And the latest figures come after  a report by Robert Francis QC to Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary,which was highly critical of the way some had been treated after they made a complaint.

In 2015, Francis reported widespread severe victimisation of staff by senior management when they spoke up for patients. Francis recognised that sacked whistleblowers are blacklisted and recommended a re-employment scheme but nothing seems to have come of it.

His most substantial recommendation was for a National Guardian to protect staff. This led the CQC to create a part time post with no powers. The first appointee, Dame Eileen Sills, quit before starting.

Since then Dr Henrietta Hughes . a GP has been appointed  as National Guardian, on a four day week. And according  to the CQC  yesterday marked her first year as the National Guardian for the NHS with the publication of her first case review report and her annual report highlighting the work of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians.

The one case review she published covered Southport and Ormskirk Health Trust which  has the unenviable reputation for bullying and discriminating against black and ethnic minority staff , a dodgy appointments system favouring some people against others and an attitude of not bothering when staff raise concerns about patients. This might sound familiar incidently for those who have followed my articles on staff practices at the Equality and Human Rights Commission but we should wait for the employment tribunals to see what happened there.

Dr Hughes has recommended a series of recommendations to put matters right – 22 in all – and there is promise from the interim chief executive of the trust, Karen Jackson, to act  with a new senior management team. We shall see. Also this was a trial – how many reports are we going to get from her in future?

The National Guardian has also produced a series of high flown documents which sound terribly good in theory – but again I think we should wait to see what happens.

What has happened so far is that the appointment of a national guardian has coincided with a drop in whistleblowers telling the CQC when things are going wrong.

What we do know is that staff do lose jobs are blacklisted and get the reputation of being troublemakers. There is a  website which covers 11 such cases here. All designed I suspect to cover up an NHS and care system creaking at the seams and not being adequately financed. I hope Dr Hughes does not turn out to be a convenient fig leaf for a service in trouble.

 

Phone Hacking Trial: Andy Coulson, “I am not a bully”, trial hears – Martin Hickman

Andy Coulson rejects claims that he was a bully at the News of the World-instead he was appreciative of journalists’s talent and gave staff bonuses.

Inforrm's Blog

CoulsonDay 91, Part 2:   Andy Coulson today denied a “bullying culture” took root at the News of the World under his editorship.

Giving evidence for a second day at the phone hacking trial, the editor-turned-Downing Street communications director said: “I am not a bully”.

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Am I bovvered? The Ministry of Defence on sexual abuse and bullying of forces’ kids

Ministry of Defence: Not safeguarding forces children

Ministry of Defence: Not safeguarding forces children

A virtually  unreported hearing of the Commons defence committee has revealed an extraordinary complacent state of affairs of the Ministry of Defence towards complaints from forces parents of sexual abuse and bullying at private schools.

MPs from all three parties have condemned the attitude of officials responsible for paying out school fees for forces children who evidently admit to refusing to move their children from a school if they are bullied or sexually abused.

A full report is  published today on the Exaro website by Frederika Whitehead and myself ( see http://www.exaronews.com/articles/4971/mod-policy-on-claims-of-child-sex-abuse-at-schools-stuns-mps ).

The MPs anger in part stems from a report on The People  ( see http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/police-probe-sexual-assault-claims-1781432 ) which revealed that Stanbridge Earls School in Hampshire where soldier’s children are sent by the MOD  was now the subject of a sexual abuse police investigation.

But the real anger came from three  MPs. Madeleine Moon, Labour MP for Bridgend, said “The MoD should put the protection of children first, not the protection of the ‘continuity of education allowance’ first.”
Two other MPs on the committee – Sir Bob Russell, Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester, and Penny Morduant, Conservative MP, for Portsmouth North, also had strong views.

And Tom Watson has also expressed concern. “This has highlighted the inadequacies of the MoD’s rules for military education. In not offering parents greater choice, the system is too rigid. Worse, the ‘don’t cause a fuss’ attitude of the department makes it hard for the families of service personnel to publicly voice their concerns. This has to stop.”

In its defence the MOD said it did not always enforce this rule. However it is a pretty bad state of affairs in the present climate that the MOD do not seem to have a duty of care towards the children of its forces personnel – given many are serving abroad and not on hand to easily intervene when their kids face bullying or sexual abuse. It all suggests that the forces still have some very antiquated attitudes towards these issues. Expect more investigations from Exaro in this area.