Whistleblowing doctors report ‘pattern’ of being targeted by trusts – conference

Whistleblowing doctors have noticed a “pattern” of becoming a target after raising concerns, and hospital trusts “wasting millions of pounds to destroy” them, it has been claimed.

Dr Salam Al-Sam, from Justice for Doctors (JFD), told the Patient Safety Conference at the Royal Society of Medicine, London, that when doctors raise “genuine concerns” they “become a target”.

And instead of the concerns being investigated, the doctors are investigated, he told the conference on Thursday.

“They say ‘concerns were raised against you, you are not allowed to practice until we’ve finished our internal investigation’,” Dr Al-Sam added.

“‘Go home, visit your GP and take sick leave. And remember, do not speak to anyone about this’.”

Dr Al-Sam said some doctors would retire, resign, move jobs and some took their own lives.

He said JFD was established in 2019 and that they had noticed “a pattern”, adding: “You raise concerns, they are not investigated, they raise a bogus case against you, they appoint a retired HR person to humiliate you, you produce documents to prove them wrong, they change the terms of reference for another MHPS investigation, now it’s your behaviour not capability, you produce further documents to prove these wrong, they refer you to the GMC, you take them to ET (employment tribunal), they appoint several lawyers and do not hesitate to waste millions of pounds to destroy you.”

A stock hospital image. A stock hospital image.

Hospital trusts were ‘wasting millions of pounds to destroy’ doctors, it was claimed (Jeff Moore/PA)

It comes after Professor Phil Banfield, chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) council, spoke of the “appalling persistence of the terrible way ‘whistleblowing’ is regarded within our NHS” in the Telegraph.

He added that doctors who raise issues are “often met with hostility and risk losing their careers”.

The conference, attended by a number of whistleblowing doctors, was organised by JFD, which describes itself on its website as a not-for-profit organisation “aiming to provide support, and guidance to doctors and other healthcare professionals who have experienced or are experiencing discrimination, harassment, and bullying, and feel targeted because of whistleblowing”.

Jane Somerville, retired professor of cardiology, chaired the meeting and said the biggest concern she wanted to highlight was “remote access to personal and work computers”.

She added: “The access is secret, remote, covert and it has the ability to get into the computer, remember you’re using NHS England email, can change documents and evidence.”

Prof Somerville said it could “lead to miscarriage of justice and misreporting of facts”.

Prof Somerville compared this to the Post Office scandal which resulted in the prosecution of 700 subpostmasters between 1999 and 2015 due to errors in the Horizon IT system which meant money appeared to be missing from many branch accounts when, in fact, it was not.

She added: “I doubt if NHS England will be able to afford to pay for all its sins that it has currently committed – think of the Post Office, what it’s going to cost, we have to stop this.”

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins Health Secretary Victoria Atkins

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said ‘every member of staff in the NHS should feel able to speak up without fear’ (Yui Mok/PA)

Dr Chris Day, who said he had been fighting a whistleblowing case for 10 years, said “money can’t buy you love but it can buy you a cover-up”.

He added: “And this country is seeing that blow-by-blow with the Post Office inquiry.

“I imagine many of the NHS whistleblowers among us will recognise the methods used in the Post Office inquiry – lies, disclosure issues, documents being destroyed.”

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Victoria Atkins said: “Every member of staff in the NHS should feel able to speak up without fear, and it’s essential that any concerns are taken very seriously to improve patient safety.

“That is why we have boosted legal protections for whistleblowers and established Freedom To Speak Up Guardians in healthcare across England, which are now in every NHS trust.

“This is in addition to setting up a confidential Speak Up Direct helpline to help workers feel safe in coming forward. I know there is still more to do, and I am determined to make sure the NHS is a fairer place to work for all.

“This goes hand-in-hand with ensuring patient safety, which is why we have delivered major initiatives over the last decade to ensure this remains at the forefront of our healthcare system. This includes introducing the first NHS Patient Safety Strategy, appointing the first Patient Safety Commissioner, and announcing our plans to implement Martha’s Rule.”

NHS England has been approached to comment.



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