Lots in the news at the moment about how NHS employees are being suspended on full pay. What have they done to warrant this? Are they suspected of professional misconduct or of gross negligence? No. They had the temerity to speak out about areas of NHS care, or highlight examples of poor management, which concerned them. So much for the guidelines which were issued to encourage and protect staff who ‘whistleblow’. There is a hope that things might change as the Department of Health are just issuing new guidance on best practice regarding how to encourage a ‘culture where staff feel able to raise concerns about malpractice or potential risk to patient safety’.
I’m not convinced on this one, I have observed two examples recently of how staff are intimidated by management for breaking a code of silence. In the first case a report about local services closing appeared in the press, no one knew the origin of the information. A meeting was called and any staff who knew about the proposed service change were summoned and questioned by a manager, the rationale being that they needed counselling (?) No one admitted to leaking information. It certainly sent out a message though, keep quiet because to speak up is to require treatment, and a treatment which would doubtless appear on your employment record, allowing you to be labelled as a problem. The next example involves the ‘super-highway’ and people exchanging information on social networking sites. Those concerned may have been misguided, but my attitude is that if their working conditions were appropriate and they were happy with the care available then their comments would not have been made. All those who took part in the on-line chats have been spoken to by the HR department and have been advised not to broadcast how discontent they are with how care is provided (or not).
We are not talking here about national security, we are talking about a public service, something which the majority of us have an involuntary financial commitment to and which all of us will use at some time or another. The NHS administrators have been compared to the Stasi, certainly their attitude to ‘whistleblowing’ appears to validate this but why smother the truth, what is wrong with honesty?