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Work for the NHS? Is it Your Duty to be a Whistle Blower?

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Following the horrific Panorama underground investigation into the patient abuse at a mental-health hospital close to Bristol, it’s clear that despite staff tip-offs and investigations the system woefully failed these vulnerable patients.

But how easy is it to blow the whistle on unethical practices in the NHS?  In theory it all sounds very simple, and most PCT’s have guidelines in place as to how to go about this.  Indeed, in his first major speech last year Andrew Lansley stated, “NHS staff need to be free to raise concerns and shielded from any backlash. We need to make sure staff know about their rights, and are supported.”

This is all very well, but in practice, whistle-blowing is not quite so easy.  In fact, a survey by the BMA showed that one in six doctors were actively told that speaking up could have a profoundly negative impact on their career.

But staff are the front line in defence against wrongdoing in the NHS.  Just because something does happen certainly doesn’t mean it should – but it sometimes takes a strong person to stand up and be counted.

To this end The Guardian newspaper ran a ‘whistle-blower special.’  Yesterday (02 June) saw interviews with two whistle blowers and a live Q&A session with a legal whistle blowing expert.  The paper has also set up a live, on-going website where any member of NHS or care staff can report their findings in full confidentiality.

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