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Patients First are nurses, doctors, managers and other staff who have made
patients their first concern by raising concerns about poor standards of
care and unsafe practice and in doing so, have often suffered reprisals in
the workplace for highlighting such concerns.
PF is a network of such health professionals & their supporters. We work to
protect whistleblowers and create an NHS where they are no longer needed.
Our purpose is to reduce death and harm in the NHS by campaigning for the UK Government to create policies and laws that ensure the NHS becomes open and accountable and we will actively support all those who raise concerns about patient safety.
Changes in our approach to whistleblowing cases
Wherever possible we advise moving away from legal action. This is highly costly for the individual whistleblower, which in majority of cases they can ill-afford. Money is also wasted by the Trust which should go on patient care. However, avoiding legal action is not always possible as in some individual cases this is the only way forward.
We don’t feel that courts is the right place to bring about issues on patient safety or NHS fraud. There should ideally be discussions between the person raising concerns and the management of their Trust to bring about a positive solution.
The aim of Patients First is to bring about effective dialogue between different levels of staff within a Trust in the interest of patient safety. By doing this, there is avoidance of repercussion as a direct result of whistleblowing as currently exists is many trusts. Patients are subsequently placed at risk, as raised concerns are not acted upon and responsible individuals/management turn a blind eye on the situation. The problem further escalates whereby any future or potential whistleblowers are prevented from raising concerns when they see wrongdoing.
Patients First is run by unpaid volunteers. We don’t claim many of our expenses. Some of our volunteers are whistleblowers who have lost their jobs speaking out in the public interest on patient safety dangerous care and fraud.
We are entirely reliant on £20 membership fees and occasional small donations.
We are grateful to a whole range of professionals who are not whistleblowers who provide unpaid advice and support, most notably lawyers and journalists.
We do not, as Patients First, recommend any individual law firm or solicitor though we are individually happy to share our experiences (good and bad) of individual law firms.
We recognise that whistleblowers turn to their trade unions or try to use their house insurance to get legal advice and representation and we understand why individual staff may do that, as there is often no alternative. Very often whistleblowers are disappointed either by the response from their union lawyers or from their court case. The legal odds are generally stacked against us despite the existence of the Public Interest Disclosure Act which at best currently provides limited compensation afterwards not protection at the time
However our focus is now less on legal action because we believe that the it is often an employer’s strategy to turn patient safety and public interest disputes into employment disputes thereby victimising whistleblowers and ignoring the original concern that was raised.
We campaign to change the workplace culture in the NHS so whistleblowing is welcomed and to that end work to seek systems-wide change as well as improvements in the law.
We have already had some success and with your support will achieve more.
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The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (the Act) amended the Employment Rights Act 1996 and created a right to redress, enforceable by tribunal, in the event of being subjected to a detriment or dismissed by one’s employer as a result of “whistleblowing” – making a disclosure in the public interest.
The Act sets conditions as to the subject matter of the disclosure, the motivation and beliefs of the worker, and the person(s) to whom the disclosure is made.
Purpose of the Act
The Act was introduced in response to the major corporate failures of the 1980s and 1990s, where workers had known of the dangers that led to disaster, but were unwilling or unable to warn of them effectively.
It aims to help prevent such disasters and corporate malpractice in general by encouraging workers with relevant information to come forward responsibly.
The Act seeks to achieve this by offering a right to redress in the event of victimisation or dismissal if workers raise their concerns in the ways specified in the legislation.
It is also hoped that the Act will promote a change in culture amongst employers, and encourage them to establish procedures to receive disclosures and act on them appropriately.
Role of the Comptroller and Auditor General and the NAO
The C&AG is a prescribed person under the Act, to whom external persons can make disclosures relating to “the proper conduct of public business, value for money, fraud and corruption in relation to the provision of centrally-funded public services”.
A full list of the prescribed persons and their remits can be found in the Schedule to Statutory Instrument 1999 No. 1549 (England, Wales and Scotland, as subsequently amended).
The C&AG’s receipt of such disclosures is consistent with his position as the external auditor for the central government sector.
The Act does not require the C&AG to investigate every disclosure he receives; his decision whether or not to investigate is based upon various criteria designed to ensure the most effective use of the resources at his disposal in safeguarding the public interest.
Types of disclosures
The scope of the Act includes disclosures which, in the reasonable belief of the worker, is in the public interest and tend to show one or more of the following; taking place either in the past, the present, or likely to take place in the future:
- A crime;
- Breach of a legal obligation (regulatory, administrative, contract law or common law);
- Miscarriage of justice; (for which the appropriate prescribed person in England and Wales is the Chief Executive of the Criminal Cases Review Commission);
- Danger to health and safety; (for which the appropriate prescribed person is the Health and Safety Executive, or the relevant local authority);
- Damage to the environment; (for which the appropriate prescribed person in England and Wales is the Environment Agency); or
- Attempts to cover up such malpractice.
Whistleblowers making an external disclosure to a prescribed person, instead of to their employer or via internal procedures, will be entitled to redress under the Act in the event that they are subjected to a detriment or are dismissed provided they:
- reasonably believe that the matter falls within one of the types of disclosure referred to above and that the disclosure is in the public interest;
- reasonably believe that the information, and any allegation it contains, are substantially true; and
- reasonably believe that the matter falls within the description of matters for which the person is prescribed.
However, it is up to an employment tribunal to decide after the event whether or not a disclosure was protected under the Act.
The NAO has no powers to determine whether a disclosure is protected, or to intervene in employment relations, and we cannot provide legal advice.
If workers contemplating making a disclosure are in doubt as to their legal rights, they should consider obtaining independent legal advice from an appropriately qualified advisor.
They may also wish to contact Public Concern at Work, a charity specialising in providing advice for whistleblowers, on 020 7404 6609 or visit their website, http://www.pcaw.co.uk.
To make a disclosure to the C&AG
Please telephone the NAO: Telephone: 020 7798 7999
Or write to:
The Comptroller and Auditor General National Audit Office 157-197 Buckingham Palace Road London SW1W 9SP
Or email us using our Contact us page.
Bullying action plan duePatients First has submitted evidence to the Whistle-blowing Commission.
We have provided supporting information to the ATOS whistle-blowers, and have asked BMA what action it intends to take to examine failings in medical leadership in this organisation.
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There are so many ways to get involved:
- You can comment on our blogs.
- Email us at email@example.com to find out more.
- Sign up and become a Member of Patients First. See the Members section to find out how to join us in our work.
- If you would like to help but do not want to become a Member you can make a donation by clicking the button on the right hand side of the site. Every penny goes to our campaigning work. Patients First is run entirely by volunteers. Help us to fight for patient care to be at the heart of the NHS. Help us to achieve our priorities.