Intended for healthcare professionals


Whistleblower was “victimised” by managers for raising concerns, review finds

BMJ 2021; 375 doi: (Published 24 December 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;375:n3147
  1. Adele Waters,
  2. Elisabeth Mahase
  1. The BMJ

The harrowing experience of one doctor’s attempt to improve patient safety at her trust raises questions about the national scheme set up to protect those who report concerns, find Adele Waters and Elisabeth Mahase

“It sounds bizarre but, looking back, I felt safer working inside the covid intensive treatment unit than any other location in the hospital. Once I was inside the doors of ITU, I knew I wouldn’t have to run into any of the management team who seemed hell bent on ending my career.”

So said Patricia Mills, an NHS anaesthetist at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, who spoke to The BMJ after the publication this month of a damning review into how her employers handled concerns she raised about patient safety almost four years ago.

In March 2018 she reported concerns about a fellow doctor (referred to as Dr A in the review) who injected himself with pain relief while looking after a patient. She subsequently became the focus of the trust’s attention and found herself the subject of scrutiny and, in March 2019, a disciplinary investigation that lasted till September 2021.

The review, conducted by Christine Outram, chair of the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, found “serious flaws” in how the trust handled the matter.1 It said that it was wrong for the trust to have dismissed Mills’s warnings, alongside those from other senior staff, and it was also regrettable that Mills had come under “detailed scrutiny” over her conduct as a direct result of whistleblowing.

“Staff should be free to challenge without fear,” Outram concluded. “The need for an open culture in which staff understand the importance of incident reporting, confident that all will be dealt with fairly, is one that applies to all NHS organisations. A culture where staff feel the need …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription