latest health care news


Treatment of whistleblowers ‘remains a stain’ on NHS, say MPs

The treatment of whistleblowers “remains a stain on the reputation of the NHS” and has led to “unwarranted and inexcusable pain” for a number of people, MPs have said.

A report from the Health Select Committee on complaints and raising concerns found that the treatment of whistleblowers has not only caused them direct harm but has also deterred others from coming forward – with ongoing implications for patient safety.

It calls for vindicated whistleblowers to be identified and receive an apology and “practical redress”.

There are many recent cases of NHS whistleblowers being victimised after raising concerns. Many have lost jobs or been referred to professional regulators by their employer after speaking out about patient safety.

Dr Kim Holt, the paediatrician who raised concerns about care at the hospital that treated Baby P, who went on to lead whistleblower support group Patients First, told the Independent that the report was “an acknowledgment that too many people have suffered and the system hasn’t worked”.

Rob Webster, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “We note the Committee’s comments on the experience of some whistleblowers in the NHS and how this is at odds with improvements in culture and confidence elsewhere.  We support the calls for practical redress for those who have been harmed as a consequence of raising genuine concerns. We should apply the same golden thread of complaints handling to staff who have been failed. We also look forward to the Francis report and its findings following detailed scrutiny in this area.”

The report goes on to makes a case for integrating complaints about health and social care under the same umbrella, saying this should start with a single rather than separate ombudsmen.

The committee also calls for the NHS to move to a culture that “welcomes” complaints as a way of improving NHS services. It says the number of complaints about a provider should not necessarily indicate failure, but rather show a service has developed a positive culture of complaint handling.

However complaints handling itself was found to still be too complex and the committee has recommend a “single gateway” for raising complaints and concerns with clearer arrangements for advocacy and support.

The report also stressed that removal of primary care complaints handling from local areas has resulted in a “disconnection from local knowledge and learning” and led to unacceptable delays.

Chair of the committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, said: "There can be no excuse for not implementing a complaints service which is easy to use and responsive to patients and their families but sadly the situation remains variable. We welcome the progress to date but make recommendations for further work in this area. In particular we recommend a single, easily identified gateway for complainants which can then make sure their complaint is handled by the most appropriate organisation. In the case of primary care for example, we do not feel that complaints should be investigated in an entirely different part of the country or plagued by delays.

“Patients and staff do not complain for financial redress but because they seek an acknowledgment and explanation, a timely apology if appropriate and for the NHS to reduce the chance of avoidable harm to others. They and the NHS deserve our support to make sure that this can happen."

Responding to the report the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said that he wants to make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world, acknowledging that listening to patients and staff is vital.

“That’s why we’ve made hospitals legally obliged to apologise to patients when mistakes do happen, introduced complaints handling as a crucial element of tougher hospital inspections and have asked Sir Robert Francis to produce an independent report on how to create a more open NHS culture,” he said.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment


national health executive tv

more videos >

featured articles

View all News

last word

Haseeb Ahmad: ‘We all have a role to play in getting innovations quicker’

Haseeb Ahmad: ‘We all have a role to play in getting innovations quicker’

Haseeb Ahmad, president of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), sits down with National Health Executive as part of our Last Word Q&A series. Would you talk us throu more > more last word articles >

health service focus

View all News


NHS England dementia director prescribes rugby for mental health and dementia patients

23/09/2019NHS England dementia director prescribes rugby for mental health and dementia patients

Reason to celebrate as NHS says watching rugby can be good for your mental ... more >
Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Bei... more >


Matt Hancock says GP recruitment is on the rise to support ‘bedrock of the NHS’

24/10/2019Matt Hancock says GP recruitment is on the rise to support ‘bedrock of the NHS’

Today, speaking at the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) annual... more >

the scalpel's daily blog

Why social prescribing is the future of healthcare

01/04/2020Why social prescribing is the future of healthcare

Jennifer Jones-Rigby, COO at Health Exchange, a social enterprise seeking to shape the design and development of health and wellbeing services in a way that wil... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >

editor's comment

25/09/2017A hotbed of innovation

This edition of NHE comes hot on the heels of this year’s NHS Expo which, once again, proved to be a huge success at Manchester Central. A number of announcements were made during the event, with the health secretary naming the second wave of NHS digital pioneers, or ‘fast followers’, which follow the initial global digital exemplars who were revealed at the same show 12 months earlier.  Jeremy Hunt also stated that by the end of 2018 – the 70th birthday... read more >