The Commons Health Select Committee has published a report which is critical of the way that the NHS treats whistleblowers. In a strongly worded comment, the report says: "the treatment of whistleblowers is a stain on the reputation of the NHS and has led to unwarranted, inexcusable pain for the courageous individuals affected."
The Report highlights continual failures to listen to staff who have drawn attention to areas of concern where there is a risk to patient safety. MPs were particularly concerned that the way whistleblowers are treated will undermine “the willingness of others to come forward” leading to risks going unreported and compromising patient safety. The report suggests that whistleblowers whose concerns are well founded should receive an apology and “practical redress”. This could involve the possibility of getting their jobs back or financial compensation.
The Health Select Committee report also highlights problems with the way the NHS deals with patients’ complaints. It argues that the system is “overly complex” and too many cases are “mishandled” leading to a “complete breakdown of trust” between patients and the NHS.
The Chairman of the Select Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston, is quoted in the Telegraph as saying that patient complaints were "plagued by delays" too often, while lessons failed to be learned because cases were handled by call centres hundreds of miles away. Dr Wollaston said: "There can be no excuse for not implementing a complaints service which is easy to use and responsive to patients and their families but sadly the situation remains variable."
Camilla Wonnacott, associate in the clinical negligence team said: “The NHS complaints system has been through a number of overhauls over the past few years but we still find that clients' experience of NHS complaints handling is often unsatisfactory. It is important that the NHS complaints system is able to conduct thorough investigations that are both transparent and efficient as patients need to be confident that their concerns are properly addressed.”