Over the last year, we’ve supported a member through a number of challenging employment procedures, including raising patient safety concerns.
Through a collaborative approach involving the employer, and its FTSU (Freedom to Speak Up) Guardian, in particular, we’ve been able to secure a positive solution for everyone.
However, it has not been an easy journey, so we wanted to highlight the benefit of getting all parties involved at an early stage.
A consultant member was concerned about the actions of a colleague, particularly the way patients were being assigned without checking whether sufficient cover was in place.
She tried to resolve her concerns informally by meeting with her employer at the end of last year. However, due to the challenging logistics arising from working as part of a small team, unfortunately, there was no obvious solution for resolving the concerns and an impasse was reached.
The situation quickly deteriorated which led to the member going on sick leave for several months.
We initially became involved by supporting the member through the absence management process but soon realised the severity of the situation.
The impasse needed to be broken, but how could we do this?
I asked the trust to get a second opinion on a proposal I had made and directed them to the FTSU guardian. Within a month of the guardian becoming involved, the employer agreed to undertake an independent, external, whistle-blowing investigation. We met with the external investigator, and the member now felt her concerns were being heard and practical solutions considered.
The recommendations that flowed from the report led to changes in the way patients were assigned and a new post being created for our member, in another department, which is what she wanted, due to the strained working relationships.
The employer has also benefitted by getting a highly effective employee back to work whilst avoiding the need for complex, expensive, and protracted litigation.
FTSU guardians are now in place in every English NHS trust. Thousands of cases have been brought to them. When NHS staff cannot successfully raise concerns through their usual line management chain, FTSU guardians are there to support them. There is also a national guardian, Henrietta Hughes, who advises on and enables best practice.
From this case, lessons will have been learned by all involved but without doubt working together with the FTSU guardian broke the deadlock and helped move things forward. Without their intervention, it would have been far more difficult to achieve such a positive outcome for our member.
The author works for the BMA’s member relations team. Their name has not been used to help ensure the confidentiality of the doctor they assisted.
If this was Whistleblowing, this was ‘public interest’ disclosure (PID) and sadly enough the person who makes such disclosure is moved from his or her original role/post/Department in NHS . Why is it so, when the law is clear regarding protection? Why was relationship strained after making PID? Why PID has to lead to ET proceedings/litigations?
Thanks for your comment and questions. I’ve spoken to the employment relations team for a response.
The member in question wanted – and requested – to move posts due to the strained relationship with their colleague so this wasn’t a negative outcome for them in this case. I appreciate that it may not be clear from the article, as we couldn’t go into too much detail about the specific situation, but the relationship was strained for a number of reasons, not all of which were related to the PID.
PIDs should not and do not always lead to ET proceedings and litigation, as demonstrated here – this is a good example of how the desired outcome for the member can still be achieved without the need for litigation.
I hope this is helpful in clarifying