Intended for healthcare professionals


Whistleblowing protection for agency locums clarified by legal ruling

BMJ 2016; 355 doi: (Published 18 October 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;355:i5625
  1. Abi Rimmer
  1. BMJ Careers
  1. arimmer{at}

Whistleblowing protection for agency workers, including locum doctors, has been clarified by a legal ruling that ensures that they have the same protection as employees, a legal expert has said.

Tom Long, legal director at law firm Shakespeare Martineau, said that an appeal tribunal hearing involving an agency nurse working at University Hospital Bristol, had clarified the rules around whistleblowing protection for agency workers, including locum doctors.1

He said, “This case gives greater clarity. [The ruling] says that any agency worker or locum doctor who blows the whistle to a hospital should be taken seriously; their whistleblowing should be treated as whistleblowing by any permanent member of staff would; and the individual should not be subjected to a detriment.”

Long said that the ruling should make locum doctors who were working through an agency feel better protected if they decided to raise concerns.

“The ultimate outcome is that locum doctors should feel more comfortable and confident in blowing the whistle and [they should know] that if they are subjected to a detriment that they will have a recourse to the employment tribunal.”

Long said that, following the outcome of the case, it would be sensible for doctors working through locum agencies who wished to raise concerns to do so to both to the hospital they were working in and the agency that they were employed by.

“You will get protection as a whistleblower if you blow the whistle to your employer as defined,” Long said. “As a result of this case it may be that the hospital is your employer or it may be that the agency is your employer. So the most sensible course of action would be to blow the whistle to both parties and then for them to work out between them who would investigate.”