Intended for healthcare professionals


Changing the face of whistleblowing

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 27 May 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b2090
  1. Peter Gooderham, associate tutor
  1. 1Cardiff Law School, Cardiff CF10 3AT
  1. GooderhamEP{at}

    Statutory protection, support from regulatory bodies and a culture change are required

    A decade after the scandal at Bristol Royal Infirmary1 whistleblowing is still hazardous to whistleblowers. A whistleblower is a person who informs on another or makes public disclosure of corruption or wrongdoing. Margaret Haywood was struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) after exposing poor standards of care at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust.2 At the same time, prominent individuals have complained that whistleblowing was inadequate at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust,3 which has been widely reported in terms of hundreds of unnecessary deaths.4 What is the problem?

    Most patients would surely expect doctors generally to protect them from potential harm; doing so has been a key part of medical ethics for centuries. The General Medical Council (GMC) stipulates a professional ethical duty to raise concerns.5 Doctors and other healthcare staff owe their patients a duty of care. Failure to protect patients from harm may breach this duty, and resulting injury may give rise to civil and criminal legal liability. An …

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