The Public Disclosure Act became law in 1999. It is the so called “whistleblowers law”, and applies to all employees. In the NHS specifically it is supposed to allow employees to draw attention to failings on the part of their employer, without having to fear any retribution from that employer.
Unfortunately it does not work. It would be illegal for any NHS employer to pursue an employee specifically for such an act of disclosure. What happens in practice however is that employees who have made an act of disclosure can find themselves the subject of disciplinary proceedings for all sorts of other reasons and can find themselves suspended or even dismissed on the vaguest, and most insubstantial of reasons. This is a loophole in the act big enough to drive a tank through.
A few examples of this can be found here, where the cases of two doctors and one nurse who endured exactly this sort of underhand treatment can be found.
I have written about the case of Sharmila Chowdury before, and it now looks certain that she will win her case. Ramon Niekrash has already won his, and Henry Fernandez has had a large out of court settlement, or as it is otherwise known, a total admission of wrongdoing.
With medical staff, for these things to happen requires the collusion in bullying and harassment of two principal individuals, the Chief Executive and Medical Director. Although others may be involved these two are key. Such targeting of victims can not occur without their malign and dishonest intent. But in all the media reporting on these cases these people are not named, responsibility being attributed to the Trust.
These people should be named and shamed, and in the case of the two doctors involved this not too difficult.
So here is the bullies roll call.
In Ealing Hospital those responsible for the underhand and disgraceful treatment of Sharmilla Chowdury were the CE Julie Lowe and the Medical Director (and Deputy CE) William Lynn.
In Woolwich Ramon Niekrash was apparently targeted by one man. David Robson was Medical Director until February 2008 and then became Chief Executive, raising the possibility that Dr Niekrash was the victim of a grudge by one unscrupulous, ambitious malicious and shameless individual.
These are people manifestly unfit to hold the positions they do. Sadly they are not the only such self serving millstones we have to carry in the NHS.