The Telegraph has recently reported that gagging orders (also known as ‘compromise agreements’) which prevent NHS whistleblowers raising concerns about patient safety are to be banned.
NHS staff leaving their employment will instead be given a new legal right to raise issues that could be in the public interest such as patient safety, death rates and poor care.
Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, insisted the ban was essential to prevent a repeat of the failings in Mid Staffordshire. He emphasised that we need a culture of openness and transparency and hoped that banning the gagging orders would assist with this.
In the past, many whistleblowers have been silenced due to clauses in their contracts as well as severance packages which have recently been reported to cost the NHS around £15 million in the past three years.
The Health Secretary told the Daily Mail: “We need to encourage front-line NHS employees who see problems to come forward, in first instance to tell their own institution about them but then having the ability to go beyond that if they don’t think anything is being done about their concerns.”
The Nursing Times has welcomed the ban and have started a ‘Speak Out Safely’ campaign. They are fighting for an open and transparent NHS that actively encourages staff to raise the alarm at an early stage, before problems get out of hand but also protects them when they do so.
Their online petition currently has approximately 600 signatures and they hope the Government will implement the recommendations from the Francis Report on Mid Staffordshire.
By Sarah Fairclough