Speaking up for patient safety is never going to be easy. Doctors who whistleblow risk hostility from colleagues and the attention of the media.
But those who stand up to meet this vital professional responsibility should not have their lives made even more difficult by the people who should be supporting them.
There have been high-profile cases of doctors being ignored, silenced or even punished by their employers after raising safety issues.
A conference at BMA House in London on October 2 will aim to highlight areas of good practice in raising concerns and tackling negative connotations of whistleblowing. It is hosted jointly by the BMA and Patients First, an organisation that campaigns for the government to make the NHS more open and accountable, and to support those who raise concerns.
Among those speaking will be London consultant paediatrician and Patients First co-founder Kim Holt, who was seconded from her team after raising concerns about the child development centre where abuse victim Peter Connelly — Baby P — was seen. She will be talking about the lessons of her experience.
But the conference is not so much about individual accounts of whistleblowing; it focuses more on looking at how doctors who see bad practice can raise concerns, where to go for help, and staying within the law.
There will be sessions on what can be learned from places that have good patient safety records, the responsibilities of the GMC, the Department of Health and the CQC (Care Quality Commission), and whether legislation needs to change to offer greater protection.
BMA council chair Mark Porter, GMC assistant director of standards Jane O’Brien, and CQC national professional adviser and former BMA president David Haslam are all involved in the conference.
Also present will be BMA regional services staff, who work hard to protect members who speak out for the common good. The conference will be an opportunity to improve our service to members still further, and to learn from the experience of others.
Read whistleblowing guidance from the GMC, the CQC and the Department of Health.
Please, in the interests of clarity, could you desist from using the rather amorphous term 'incentivise' and revert to the rather more accurate and better understood term 'bribe'.
Look at THIS!
If this happens there will be no going back.
BMA must oppose this strongly and VERY publicly
I have recent experience of inefficient delivery of health care to a relative of mine. Many months ado she was referred to the dermatology dept our local Foundation Trust Hospital for biopsy of a very small nodule on her nose. Following this silence for a month and then a letter arrived to her home informing her that she had a skin cancer(basal cell) but without any guidance about this type of cancer. options for treatment or prognosis.
The letter also said that she would be referred to the plastic surgery dept for treatment. What then appeared after another delay was another outpatient appointment following which she was listed for surgery. The appointment for day case surgery involved another delay of about 6 weeks, The surgery has been carried out and hopefully will be curative.
I find it difficult to understand why, after the biopsy result she could not be directly listed for surgery on the basis of the report. photographs of the lesion and a short internal referral letter. It would be easy to put these delays down to 'bureaucracy' but I suspect that clinical governance failures also played a role.
We have been experiencing a problem with breached patients - beyond 18 weeks, patients are no longer allowed to be listed for surgery without management approval - instead, we are made to do patients who are just about to breach to meet targets - in other words, once a patient has passed 18 weeks, they could wait much longer whilst others 'queue barge' ahead. This is not a Trust directive but comes from the DOH and so we are made to comply - this makes the service unfair and strains our relationship to our patients. Are other units faces with similar restrictions to 'massage' the breach figures?
the BMA is being disingenous in purporting to support NHS whistleblowers.
What is never made clear is that the BMA do not provide any legal support to GPs who are forced into a position of having to make disclosures..
In my own case, it has refused to support my claim folowing a legitimate and serious disclosure to my Health Authority that resulted in threats, and open hostility from its personnel and my partners, resulting in loss of my position. I have been forced to fund my legal battle privately in order to bnng a case at the Employment Tribunal under the Public Interest Disclosure Act.
No one doubts the veracity of my disclosures yet I faced the now inevitable backlash that resulted in the loss of my position as partner and threatened my future medical career.
I hope that at this planned conference, due consideration is given to the special circumstances of a GP, who as a contractor, rather than an employee, is given no legal protection by the BMA, Defence organisation or GMC, and is not protected in the same way as an employee.
Governance in Primary care cannot be robust until special measures are put in place to protect GPs who dare to report serious risks to patient safety.
There is often a clear confrontation between EBM -approach and local traditions/group concensus. One severe problem is when medical directors are not updated re. diagnostic instruments, especially in psychaitry.
There is a need for new legislation giving the whistleblower the right to put his own license at risk at a legal hearing where the whistleblower/truthlifter should have the right that during the total of an hour lecture and explain what he has discovered, this in front of an audiance consisting of patient organisations, doctors, politicians, GMC staff, BMA/staff, solicitors and media. It must be representants from a wide range of interest organisations among the audience. So, there should be a law a doctor as a final resort can rely to. Giving an experienced consultant this opportunity would of course bring shame on himself if his allegations lack reasonable grounds and the consultant should also know that he might risk losing his license to practise if totally failing in this procedure of "Act of different diagnostic opinion".
Media often have more trust in NHS managers who start a smearing campaign in media describing the whistleblower as the problem. So the whistleblower is attacked on several fronts.
I know by experience of whistleblowing myself that a law like this would make NHS directors much more keen to listen and willing to open up for second opinions others than their own. This as otherwise they might risk being embaressed at this kind of hearing that "Act of different diagnostic opinion" will provide.
By the way, the term Whistleblower ought to be changed to Truth lifter and actually to lift truths should be career rewarding - not the opposite.
Thomas Jackson GMC reg no. 6026756
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