Whistleblowing in Health & Social Care

Whistleblowing in Health and Social Care settings will be under close scrutiny as former health secretary Stephen Dorrell, chairman of the Health Select Committee, announces that there will be a parliamentary inquiry into claims that NHS ‘whistleblowers’ who reveal poor standards of care in the health service are being ostracised and even having their careers ruined.

At the same time, the committee has accused the General Medical Council (GMC) of putting people at risk by not stamping out sub-standard practices in the health service. In a report the committee said: “Some of the decisions made by fitness-to-practise panels of the GMC defy logic and go against the core task of the GMC in maintaining the confidence of its stakeholders. Furthermore, they put the public at risk of poor medical practice.”

Dorrell said: “Every practising doctor and nurse knows that in addition to their obligation to care for their patients, they have an obligation as professionals to report to their professional body any concerns they have about the quality of care being delivered by their colleagues as a result of what they know or should have known.

“This wider responsibility for the overall quality of care delivered to patients is a part of what it means to be a professional, and we look to the GMC and the NMC [Nursing and Midwifery Council] to ensure that failure to act on it is regarded as a serious breach of professional obligation.”

Dorrell told The Independent: “The committee will look into whistleblowers. It is every professional’s business to ensure that clinical care where they work is of a certain standard. Like Sir Ian Kennedy said after the Bristol babies inquiry: ‘It wasn’t that nobody knew, it was that everybody knew.’ Every doctor and nurse has an obligation to act if they know there is a problem and those who do nothing should be questioned by their regulator; it would soon stop this kind of thing.”

And Peter Walsh, the chief executive of patient-safety charity Action against Medical Accidents, said: “The government’s approach to whistleblowers is totally inadequate. We have fine words and guidance in abundance but NHS organisations have shown a consistent ability to work outside the spirit of these well-intended measures, and regulators seem to stand by when organisations blatantly flout them.”

The committee will also look at tightening up standards of care for the elderly and to look at the situation of nurses and doctors from the European Union being allowed to work in the UK without their medical skills or their grasp of English being checked.

Source – The Independent, 26th July