An investigative report conducted by The Daily Telegraph has suggested that whistleblowers in the NHS face the prospect of being blacklisted due to insufficient legal protection.
Maha Yassaie had been awarded £375,000 compensation from the Department of Health, following an internal enquiry which revealed that she had been informed she was too honest to work for the NHS.
Yet the post-NHS career of Yassaie has been frustrating, with The NHS apparently having indicated that she had been dismissed from her previous job, even though this was not accurate.
Many other individuals have experienced similar problems, pointing to a toxic culture for those who go public on problems and potential corruption in the health system.
And experts on the matter, speaking to The Daily Telegraph, suggested that the error could in fact be malicious.
Yassaie herself stated that she was an experienced and highly paid manager, with a fantastic career in the NHS, and has found that the health service is completely destroying her future employment prospects.
John Bowers QC, considered one of the biggest experts in Britain on employment law, suggested that there is a lack of specific protection within existing legislation, and that this can lead to the unwarranted blacklisting of whistleblowers.
Bowers is also principal of Brasenose College at Oxford University and sits as a Deputy High Court Judge.
“It is a problem that there is no law that stops blacklisting of whistleblowing claimants. It is particularly serious in the NHS for two reasons. Firstly, because there are more whistleblowers in the NHS than anywhere else, due to the nature of what people deal with. Secondly, although there are lots of different employers, it is effectively one large super employer. And if you are blacklisted by one, you are probably not going to get another job. For many things it is effectively a monopoly organisation.”
The Information Commissioner’s Office suggested that the Department of Health Had been put in an unfortunate position by data protection legislation.
“If someone was dismissed then that would be included, but if it is established that they were dismissed unfairly, a note should then be added to the record. An individual is entitled to this under the Data Protection Act.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Health insisted that all of its staff records are accurate, and that it has fully complied with the existing Data Protection Act.
“We want to make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world and will support staff to speak up when things go wrong, without fear of reprisal. That’s why, as well as working with individuals to ensure that their electronic staff records are accurate and up to date.”
Recent efforts have been made to ensure that whistleblowers can indeed come forward in the NHS, but it seems increasingly clear that these have been inadequate.