Last updated:

Measures to support whistleblowers win backing

St Marys/Hammersmith Hospitals 21-12-16
Hospital doctor in corridor carrying stethoscope SMH2016

Doctors have welcomed a series of measures to help NHS whistleblowers and improve probes into poor care, following a review of hundreds of deaths at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital.

The measures were unveiled by health secretary Matt Hancock as the Government’s response to the investigation of 800 deaths at the Hampshire hospital between 1987 and 2001.

The Gosport Independent Panel, which is carrying out the review, reported in June that at least 450 lives had been ‘shortened by inappropriate use of opioids’.

Mr Hancock spoke of the ‘preventable deaths’ and the ‘repeated failure of multiple parties to listen to whistleblowers, nurses and families’.

‘Those with the courage to speak up will be celebrated,’ he told Parliament. ‘Leaders must change the culture to learn from errors and we must redouble our resolve to create a health service that will be a fitting testament to the Gosport patients and their families.'

The measures include the establishment of a ‘medical examiner’ to scrutinise all deaths not being investigated by coroners.


Confidence to complain

The creation of the role has been supported in principle by the BMA and was referenced in its response to the Leslie Hamilton review of gross negligence manslaughter and culpable homicide commissioned by the GMC.

BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said many doctors have little or no confidence in raising concerns for fear of not being listened to and the effect it may have on their careers.

‘Doctors experience challenges of trying to provide safe patient care when there is poor staffing, gaps in rotas and where a persistent culture of blame stifles learning and discourages innovation,’ he added.

‘So, the new legislation announced by the health secretary today must take account of the impact that culture is having.’

Creating a medical-examiner role was ‘a step in the right direction’ for patient safety, he added. ‘But we need to see the detail of how these posts will be staffed, funded and how they will work across both secondary and primary care.’

‘The BMA now wants to see the health secretary’s commitments to an NHS that promotes learning, rather than blame and listens to patients and their families and staff concerns, enacted, with tangible results that deliver real benefits to patients and to staff.’

Find out more about raising concerns

Read more from Keith Cooper and follow on Twitter.