Daily Telegraph: Whistleblowing: NHS crushes those who speak out, Sir Robert Francis QC warns

Laura Donnelly of the Daily Telegraph reports:

Sir Robert believes that many of the worst failings in the NHS occur when clinical staff become powerless — are left “shrugging their shoulders” rather than challenging poor care.

As he made a public call for evidence, he told The Telegraph that he feared too many had been hounded out of the NHS by “a culture of denial and fear”.

Sir Robert said increasing numbers of whistle–blowers had contacted him since his public inquiry reported in 2013.

“Since the inquiry I’ve had a lot of people talk to me about the culture of fear that prevents people speaking out,” he said.

Sir Robert said the Mid Staffs inquiry had exposed the “consequences for patients when there is a ‘closed ranks’ culture” – and warned that every time the NHS treated a whistleblower badly, yet more were deterred from “doing the right thing”.

The inquiry has heard from senior doctors and nurses who say they were hounded out of their jobs, with some losing their homes, careers, and health, after going public about their concerns.

  • Clinicians who raised safety concerns about the ‘radical redesign’ at Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) were accused of ‘shroud waving.’
  • During what was laughably called the ‘staff consultation’ on the radical redesign, staff were told that only ‘positive feedback‘ was welcome
  • At the beginning of our campaign, the crisis in mental health services was dismissed as ‘so-called‘ by the NSFT Chair, Gary Page
  • NSFT dismissed our claims without explanation as ‘inaccurate
  • NSFT believed that the problems at NSFT were presentational rather than operational and dramatically increased its expenditure on public relations and communications consultants
  • The self-proclaimed architect of the disastrous radical redesign has been promoted, remains on the payroll and is due to return from her mysterious ‘secondment’ to the NHS Confederation in about six months
  • When we requested data from NSFT relating to the performance of the Access & Assessment service under the Freedom of Information Act, we were told it was unavailable. When we had a subsequent private meeting with a senior NSFT manager, she had the data we had asked for and said it had always been available
  • NSFT is now threatening to charge us for providing information under the Freedom of Information Act which it has never done before
  • When we asked NHS England for information about its Quality Surveillance of NSFT under the Freedom of Information Act, NHS England refused to share that information with us. We are currently challenging that flawed decision
  • NSFT executives have created ‘uncomfortable moments’ in corridors and tried to intimidate trade union reps into not speaking to the media
  • NSFT attempted to silence our campaign through legal action, wasting thousands of pounds of NHS funds on internal and external legal advice in the process
  • A clinician was forced to ‘out’ himself and demand the removal of a BBC radio interview from our website as a condition of keeping his job
  • Line managers of NSFT staff who NSFT believes have commented on our website have received emails from the NSFT Comms department asking them to reprimand staff
  • NSFT staff were told not to give information to CQC inspectors unless they were specifically asked for it
  • Some NSFT governors tell us that they have been told our website is full of ‘filth’ and ‘lies’ and not to visit
  • Some NSFT governors tell us they have been warned not to join us, not to attend our meetings and to ignore concerns raised by other ‘troublemaker’ governors sympathetic to our campaign
  • Some NSFT governors have told us they have been told virtually nothing about NSFT’s mutualisation plans
  • When NSFT ran its dangerous and wasteful voluntary redundancy programme, it was completely arbitrary and gave managers the opportunity to get rid of those deemed ‘off message’ or ‘dead wood’
  • NSFT won’t talk to our campaign because we criticised the governance and leadership of the trust. Monitor and the CQC share exactly the same concerns but NSFT has to talk to its regulators
  • Healthwatch has never tried to engage with us, the largest grassroots mental health campaign in England
  • We have been unable to get mental health onto the agenda of the lead commissioner in Norfolk
  • Not a single local MP has reached out to our campaign
  • When the appalling CQC report into NSFT was published, there were choreographed statements from Norman Lamb, Dan Poulter and Chloe Smith backing the management at NSFT. Loyalty to the government and the suppression of problems in the NHS remains more important than patient care despite the best efforts of Robert Francis QC
  • Norman Lamb called us ‘mental health extremists’ at his meeting in Saxmundham. Read our moderate programme and website and you’ll discover the true reasons why he calls us ‘extremists’ are that we don’t tolerate or ignore the waste, cuts and preventable deaths at NSFT or Norman Lamb’s duplicity and hypocrisy

Click on the image below to read the full story on the Daily Telegraph website:

Daily Telegraph Whistleblowing NHS crushes those who speak out, Sir Robert Francis QC warns

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