Whistle blowers and complainants need to be assured of independent complaint handling.

Two members of the PHSO Pressure Group recently attended a meeting with Jeremy Hunt where Dr. Richard Taylor from NHA Party put forward his proposal for local, independent complaint handling to replace the disbanded Community Health Councils.  As a group which represents dissatisfied complainants, the PHSO Pressure Group wholeheartedly support this suggestion and the move towards a dedicated Health Service Ombudsman.

Read Dr. Taylor’s article below:

How independent will NHS ‘whistleblower guardians’ be? We need a new Health Service Ombudsman

Reaction to Francis Review and Jeremy Hunt announcement on NHS ‘whistleblower guardians’

​Karen Howell, founder of the Support Stafford  Hospital campaign and the NHA prospective parliamentary candidate for Stafford said:

​”The  Support Stafford Hospital campaign has become the de facto place for staff, patients and relatives to come to with their safety concerns. Patients and relatives come to us because they don’t trust the hospital. Staff come to us because they’re too scared to speak out publicly. Unless staff, patients and relatives are confident they are being dealt with in total secrecy and independence by officers who have real power, patient safety breaches won’t be reported and patients will continue to be at risk.”

​NHA co-leader Dr Richard Taylor​, former MP for Wyre Forest and member of the Health Select Committee who’s standing again at the general election, said:

​”5 years ago I was the MP behind a Private Members Bill​ calling for the establishment of independent ​s​upport ​o​fficers for NHS employees who wished to make disclosures in the public interest, and placing a duty on NHS trusts and others to co-operate with the support officers.​ Sadly my Private Members Bill w​a​s filibustered and “objected” out of existence by Tor​y MPs.

​My proposals went much further than ​the trust-appointed ‘whis​t​leblower guardians’ and a national independent officer ​that ​Jeremy Hunt is now endorsing.

In order for NHS staff​,​ and patients too​,​ to feel they can safety divulge information about possible safety breaches, it’s crucial that th​e​ whistleblower guardians ​are truly independent.  But if they are appointed and paid for by hospital trusts, this​ will lead to fears ​that they are not impartial.

Moves to enhance support for whistleblowers shouldn’t distract from the underlying ​reasons why safety breaches are occurring​ – th​is government’s failure to properly fund the NHS, ​its wasteful​ and disastrous​ NHS reforms and ​damaging ​cuts to social care.​ If NHS staff are operating under such intense pressure, it’s regrettable but not surprising that patient care may suffer.​

Staff as well as patients and relatives need expert, independent help themselves to make effective complaints and this independent help must be easily and generally available early in the process and long before legal action is considered. Legal action must always be the last resort.

Before Community Health Councils were abolished they had the ability to listen to complaints and then direct access to local NHS authorities or even the Health Secretary if necessary. There has been no adequate replacement for this vital service. Health Watch appears to be toothless in this respect. But there is a solution.

The Independent Health and Disability Commissioner of New Zealand, with offices in all major towns, is an example of an independent, accessible official to whom patients, relatives and staff can raise complaints and concerns with preservation of anonymity if desired. The Commissioner has the knowledge and ability to cope with these or to pass them on to the highest authority when appropriate.

An appropriate reform of the Complaints Process could fill this gap by instituting such local, independent health service experts working under a new Health Service Ombudsman. We need a People’s Champion for Health.

​​Some weeks ago I went to London for a meeting with Jeremy Hunt​ to raise concerns about the handling of NHS complaints. Mr Hunt appeared to understand and share our worries but I have seen no action yet to reflect this​.”​

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2 comments

  1. Dr Helen Bright

    A friend told me: “while French are revolting English wait for their turn in a queue. ”
    Of course, there is plenty to do now because not much was done while waiting for the turn.
    Any radical solution starts in the mind of the people who have to be freed firstly, by themselves in order to act.
    The system is so old and out of date that if one is honestly examining oneself and what one has supported for so long one has to admit mistakes. One could expect social injustice in UK for some time ahead because of the collusion of the public with failed institutions. Just one simple example is The Royal College
    Of Psychiatrists who like the status of Royal Charter but ignore patients’s rights to free speech and are prepared to obstruct it and will do all they can to destroy psychiatrist who put patients first. One method used by them is to sit on fitness to practice tribunals where they abuse their power to eliminate whistleblowing doctors. Of course , religious fanatics are particularly welcome because of their cruelty. A doctor who wrote in his book that demons cause epilepsy sat at the General Medical Council judging other doctors with profound venom. The regulator never asked for their money back. They pay for poor services of some panellists because it suits them. When there is ganging up of some doctors against the whistleblowing the GMC supports the bullies. When they misrepresent matters to Parliamentary Health Committee I am not aware that the Parliament has used their power of recall. I shall have to check that.

    • phsothefacts.com

      I agree that the system is corrupted from top to bottom and the primary difficulty is securing any organisation with true ‘independence’. New bodies are created to try to tighten up control, but the members are selected by those already within the system and a new compliant quango is born. How do we achieve independence?

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