HR Magazine - 24 April 2019
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock announced yesterday that gagging orders on NHS whistleblowers are to be banned.
Hancock told The Telegraph that he believes the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in the NHS is "completely inappropriate".
"Whistleblowers perform a vital and courageous service for the NHS and I want more people to feel they can put their head above the parapet,” he said.
“Settlement agreements that infringe on an individual’s right to speak out for the benefit of patients are completely inappropriate. Making someone choose between the job they love and keeping patients safe is an injustice I am determined to end.”
From 2017 to 2018 356 NHS whistleblowers said they had experienced a range of negative reactions, ranging from 'subtle' punishments such as being denied career opportunities to being unjustly fired. Among the worst affected are doctors, many of whom say they have been sacked for speaking out about malpractice such as bullying, faulty medical equipment and unsafe staffing levels.
However, Paul Quain, senior partner at GQ|Littler, told HR magazine that Hancock's announcement regarding the NHS holds little weight. “This is a strange announcement from Matt Hancock. It seems to repeat the spirit of an announcement his predecessor Jeremy Hunt made in 2013. The law already ensures that settlement agreements cannot prevent whistleblowers from making disclosures. The problems in the NHS seem to arise from cultural and institutional factors, not legal issues or the terms of the agreements it is using," he said.
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