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24.04.19

Hancock vows to ban gagging orders for NHS whistleblowers

Health secretary Matt Hancock has vowed to banish the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in the NHS.

Hancock has said he will ban the gagging orders as he wants more staff to feel they can “put their head above the parapet,” declaring that the government “stands with whistleblowers.”

Hancock said: “Making someone choose between the job they love and speaking the truth to keep patients safe is an injustice I am determined to end.

He said whistleblowers perform a vital and courageous service for the NHS, and agreements that infringe on people’s right to speak out for the benefit of patients are “completely inappropriate.”

“But they must have a safe, open culture to do this in order to achieve the ambitions set out in the long-term plan and make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world,” Hancock noted.

The comments come amid growing concerns over the treatment of NHS whistleblowers and the use of NDAs to silence staff.

Last year MPs and doctors lead calls for whistleblowing legislation, which they said is outdated and can prevent staff from coming forward, to be changed and replaced with a specific NHS law.

Then in February, Hancock announced new competency and ethical standards in a bid to change the NHS’s “morally abhorrent and operationally foolish” approach to whistleblowers.

The gagging orders have come under criticism across a range of sectors, and it emerged last week that universities had spent nearly £90m on pay-offs with NDAs attached in the last two years.

 In March, the government announced toughened legal measures to prevent employers using confidentiality agreements to prevent staff from reporting crimes, harassment or discrimination.

Image credit - Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/PA Images

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