Just as the victims of medical negligence we meet at Fletchers Solicitors have their stories to tell, whistleblowers within and around the NHS also have accounts of failings that can reveal wider issues.
A whistleblower is defined as ‘someone who makes public disclosure of corruption or wrongdoing.’ While whistleblowing can happen in many industries, in the NHS it can be the difference between life and death. Medical professionals have a duty of care to the people they treat and, if that duty is breached, it can potentially only be through the actions of whistleblowers that problems come to light.
Despite this, speaking out isn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s been reported that the NHS spent 4 million in three years to prevent whistleblowers from going public – effectively gagging them. In addition, the act of whistleblowing is perceived to be risky. Even if someone is determined to make their voice heard, they will still have in their mind the possibility that they will be ostracised, dismissed or blacklisted as a consequence. For some, these risks outweigh the benefits.
As a result, whistleblowing has become an act which requires courage. As David Prior, chairman of the Care Quality Commission told MPs recently: “Even if you are an alpha-male surgeon, you are frightened. We might not feel that’s good enough but that is the situation.”
Unfortunately, there is still much to do. It could be argued that the NHS is making slow but steady progress in encouraging whistleblowing, with guidance on the NHS Employers website being one example of a resource designed to raise the issue among staff.
Yet it will need a concerted effort – and arguably a fundamental change of culture in the NHS – for whistleblowing to be seen in a different light and as the right thing to do rather than a risk not worth taking.
So what difference would it make if more people within the NHS had the courage to speak out?
We’ve already mentioned about how it could be the difference between life and death. Here at Fletchers, we deal with a huge variety of medical negligence claims. With significant changes and cuts being made in healthcare provision, these examples of negligence are here to stay. But there’s little doubt that more whistleblowing could prevent some of them from happening by removing the issues which lead to people becoming victims, which cannot be a bad thing.
At Fletchers, we will continue to provide the best possible service for anyone who has been the victim of medical negligence, dedicating our time and resources to help them get their lives back on track.