Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

News

Public sector whistleblowers are treated “shockingly,” MPs find

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g4959 (Published 01 August 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g4959

Rapid Response:

Clare Dyer reported “MPs found a startling disconnect between the general good quality of whistleblowing policies in theory and how arrangements actually work in practice”. Is this surprising?

Whistleblowers draw attention to poor practice and misconduct that senior individuals in organisations wish to conceal. Whatever the policy says, those powerful individuals will circumvent any policy that is intended to safeguard whistleblowers in order to protect themselves, their friends and their organisation.

In the NHS (and other organisations) senior managers will try to find something to use to discredit a whistleblower. I know of examples where hospital managers have secretly audited the medical records of patients seen by a doctor to find errors; have secretly gone through their work computer; have searched their office at weekends, including going through their waste bin and confidential document shredder; and have had private detective follow employees. Most of us have made some errors that can be dressed up to make them appear serious. If all else fails, false charges can be brought and, from helping whistleblowers, I know that disproving them can take years. By then a suspended whistleblower will have become deskilled and their job may have been given to someone else.

There is only one organisation that is honest enough to have a whistleblower policy that accurately reflects the way it deals with whistleblowers. It’s the Mafia.

Competing interests: No competing interests

13 August 2014
Peter T Wilmshurst
Consultant Cardiologist
University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust
Stoke-on-Trent, ST4 6QG