Proposals from the government would see greater protections given to whistleblowers who are seeking employment in the NHS. One prominent London legal firm, however, has voiced the opinion that the measures proposed will simply not be enough to protect whistleblowers from “systemic victimisation.”
The proposals would provide greater rights and protections for those who are seeking new jobs in the NHS after reporting malpractice in previous health service roles. If a candidate feels they have been discriminated against when applying for a job because they have previously reported misconduct, the new regulations will give them the right to take their case to an employment tribunal. The proposals also give whistleblowers the right to bring complaints to the county court or the high court if they feel they have suffered discrimination.
The proposals are contained in a consultation paper, which was recently published following an independent review commissioned by the government. The paper sets out a number of specifics including the amount of time candidates have to make their complaints to the tribunal and guidelines as the the levels of compensation and other remedies that a tribunal can award to complaints that are deemed to be valid. According to the Department of Health, the proposals have been put together with a view to giving adequate protections for whistleblowers, and also to “make clear” the message that discrimination against those who bhighlight wrongdoing is not acceptable.
There is little dissent from the legal industry for the idea that regulatory protections for NHS whistleblowers are needed. The independent review, which was chaired by Sir Robert Francis QC, uncovered evidence of active discrimination and blacklisting against health service employees who had called attention to misconduct. There are, however, suggestions that the proposed reforms may not be enough to grant that protection.
In particular, Bindman’s, a legal practice based in the capital that is best known for its work in the area of human rights, has been critical of the proposals. The firm described them as mere “tweaks” to existing regulations.
Associate of the firm Peter Daly said that the proposals would create a situation where “whistleblowers must first wait to suffer often irreparable damage to their career and livelihood, then commence litigation against the NHS, then prove to a judge that the treatment they received was unlawful, before receiving any formal recognition of the validity of the concerns they had initially raised.”
Daly further criticised the consultation document, saying that the approach embodid by its proposals “does not appear to address the continued existence of the asphyxiating environment deterring those with concerns to raise.”