Opinion by Michael Fabricant MP.
REMOVE FEAR FROM NHS STAFF
The NHS must change. When two constituents came to see me about the state of the hospital in which they work ? not Stafford – complete with a dossier of photographs, they were terrified to leave it with me as they believed their jobs would be in jeopardy. It left me impotent to take any action.
When I raised this matter in the House of Commons last week, I asked the Health Secretary: ?What sort of ethos exists in the health service if people like that can be afraid of revealing the truth??
Alan Johnson replied: ?I do not understand why clinicians whose primary role is the safety of their patients are somehow concerned about whistleblowing. Indeed, knowing the number of people in various occupations who are not slow to make people aware of such difficulties, it amazes me that that did not happen at Stafford. The hon. Gentleman has taken a great interest in the matter, and I shall make absolutely sure that the issue that he has raised with me is thoroughly examined. Incidentally, I would also like to talk to the consultant concerned to find out why they were so frightened to raise the matter.?
Immediately after the exchange, Dr Richard Taylor ? the Independent MP for Kidderminster, himself a distinguished consultant physician ? told me that fear of whistle blowing is endemic in the NHS.
Earlier in the Parliamentary question session, he had asked Alan Johnson: ?What can the Secretary of State do to encourage NHS chief executives to listen to and take note of staff whistleblowers so that they do not feel that they are putting their jobs and careers in jeopardy??
But the Health Secretary answered: ?Dr Taylor will accept that the NHS constitution, which has a substantial section on staff responsibilities, and the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, which was introduced by this Government, ensure that if there are whistles available, someone to blow them and something to be blown about, that should happen, and we should know about it. One of the great abiding mysteries of Stafford is that no such whistle was blown.?
But is it such a mystery? It does not just apply to Stafford. Doctors and nurses tell me that there is a climate of fear across the country. Whether it be clinical failings or financial waste arising from a top heavy bureaucracy, doctors and nurses should be able to speak out without fear on behalf of patients.
Does not the Hippocratic Oath make it an obligation to do so?
Power should be restored to the clinicians: the doctors, nurses, and medical auxiliaries. The pen pushers are there to serve them and the patients who attend our hospitals and clinics. Alan Johnson should address that failure without any further prevarication.