Editor's blog Wednesday 3rd February 2010: A whistleblower vindicated
The general experience of whistleblowers in the NHS is best encapsulated by Thomas Hobbes' description of the lives of people without civil society: "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short".
Step forward, then, consultant urologist Ramon Niekrash, formerly of Queen Elizabeth Hospital Woolwich. Today's Independentreveals the circumstances and outcome of his successful employment tribunal against the trust.
The material is depressingly familiar. In an accompanying editorial, Niekrash himself correctly states that "The trust's whistleblowing policy makes it clear that staff have a right and a duty to draw the management's attention to any matters that they consider to be damaging to a patient or client. My experience has shown that clinical governance procedures and whistleblowing policies are not always effective in providing a framework through which the NHS organisations are accountable, nor for creating an environment in which excellence in clinical care will flourish".
This isn't new. Speaking out about bad practice in the NHS has had career-limiting or career-curtailing effects. Ask anaesthetist Steve Bolsin from Bristol Royal Infirmary. Ask Rita Pal from Ward 87, North Staffordshire. Ask Margaret Heywood from the Royal Sussex.
Niekrash concludes, "There exists little in the way of a regulatory mechanism, punitive measures or indeed any general oversight to ensure we do not see any more highly skilled medical professionals removed from the NHS because they took their duty of care to patients seriously".
It would be nice if he wasn't right, but he is.