Update to put things into perspective:
Dr Daniel Martin OBE, head of intensive care for serious infectious diseases at the Royal Free hospital, emailed a report to colleagues at the peak of the pandemic with a note claiming that the trust would “track any leaks to the media” and then “offer you the chance to post your P45 on Facebook for all to see.”
As the slavering pack of opposition MSPs turns from the PPE, testing and care home deaths, carcasses to devour the Independent Review into the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, it’s clear they are not digesting it properly but responding to the whistles being blown at them by a small group close to the whistleblowers.
In the Herald today we hear Monica Lennon and Miles Briggs yapping about ‘brave whistleblowers’ and ‘lessons not being learned’ but they’re off again with their noses to the ground before the Herald remembers to tell them:
Jeane Freeman has publicly praised the whistleblowers involved in the problems with the QEUH, and in 2018 pledged at the SNP conference to appoint a whistleblowing champion in every health board. She said at the time: “If there is anyone in our health service who is feeling bullied or harassed I take that very seriously – and I want you to come forward.” As of February this year, 19 of Scotland’s 22 health boards had whistleblowing champions appointed.
Circling back and hearing this, one of the pack barked: ‘Yeh, yeh, I know but Jeane must stop whistleblowers beng victimised, WOOOF!!!’
Yesterday, Hannah Rodger, having read the report, insisted:
A REPORT into problems at Scotland’s flagship hospital could ‘fundamentally damage’ the confidence of medical professionals to report serious concerns in future. According to senior health figures the independent report into the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH)) will have widespread ramifications for those considering whistleblowing. The 200-page review, published this week, has criticised the behaviour of several NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) staff who began raising concerns about the £842m hospital as early as 2015.
I had a look. The whistleblowers are anonymous. No clues are given anywhere to their identity. Whistle-blowing is mentioned 42 times. I looked at them all. Very few are more than just descriptive.
The 7th one is interesting:
9.22.4. Although it is not a formalised part of national or individual Board policy there have been instances where whistleblowers have raised their concerns directly with politicians or through the media. Such situations are however covered by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.
That raises an important point where the whistleblowers could be criticised but the last sentence clearly supports their right to do that.
The 15th and 16th seem, again respectful of the whistleblowers:
9.23.11. In response to Step 2 the NHS GG&C’s director of public health, as one of the designated senior managers for whistleblowing, met with the two whistleblowers. By this stage the third whistleblower had stepped back from the process. The Director of Public Health undertook an investigation and was able to reassure herself and the whistleblowers that NHS GG&C acknowledged their concerns, took them seriously, and that progress was being made toward achieving the agreed actions. This investigation was completed by May 2018.
9.23.12. Since then we have learned that one whistleblower still harbours concerns that appropriate actions are not being taken quickly enough while the other, in November 2019, opted to pursue Step 3 and, at the time of writing, a report of the investigation undertaken by the nominated non-executive board member has been sent to the whistleblower for consideration.
The 19th raises a very important point which opposition parties and the Scottish media clearly did not consider at the time with their lurid, opportunistic interventions:
The media or individuals unconnected to the organisation involved, have
obligations when approached by whistleblowers. They need to establish the validity and accuracy of the whistleblowers’ claims and the previous steps taken to address them. These observations serve not to undermine the policy of whistleblowing but they do seek to ensure that fact, context and perspective are central to the practice of addressing whistleblowing.
In the 24th reference, the report accepts that the Board could have done better:
9.24.9. To ensure that concerns are managed correctly and whistleblowers have appropriate support it is essential that there is regular detailed feedback subject to the caveats outlined above. In this case several witnesses in the Review, including NHS GG&C Board members, have indicated that communication with the whistleblowers could have been better and had it been so, then the course of events may have been smoother.
This suggests a clear willingness not to blame whistleblowers.
The 28th reference, as always, is respectful of the rights of the whistleblowers even when reporting division of opinion.
9.24.12. Clinical colleagues of the whistleblowers have expressed mixed, often contrasting, views.200 Some have sympathy with the whistleblowers and their sincerely held views, some dispute the views, while others are unhappy about the manner in which the views have been expressed and pursued.201
The 30th will be the one most exercising the whistleblowers and their untrustworthy champions in the Labour and conservative parties:
9.24.13. It has been claimed that the whistleblowers pursued their concerns in a way that others found intimidating and that they were not prepared to listen to the views of others and were trying to make evidence fit a particular hypothesis. Neither were they prepared to allow time for actions to be implemented. The behaviour of one of the whistleblowers was criticised by colleagues.202 203
Is this victimisation or accurate reporting, properly anonymized to allow all involved to have their say?
The 32nd is also potentially unsettling for some but surely justifiable in reflecting the rights of all involved?
9.24.15. One senior clinician was concerned that the way one of the whistleblowers raised their concern and presented supporting evidence compromised patient confidentiality and allowed at least one patient to be identified in a meeting.206
In the end, there is an honest assessment and a clear statement of intent not to victimise and an acceptance that the institution has work to do.
9.24.18. What is clear is that whistleblowing can cause damage to the internal relationships of the organisation and to the whistleblowers’ place within that organisation, which is difficult to repair. Processes that have been so conspicuously ruptured do not readily heal – they include the relationships, trust and shared values that underpin the effective functioning of a complex organisation.
9.24.19. There is a need on all sides to recognise that and seek ways of mending the damage as well as restoring stakeholders’ confidence in the organisation, while addressing the original reason for whistleblowing effectively. Addressing the wider systemic implications of an incidence of whistleblowing are often as important, if not more so, than addressing the specific concerns.
9.24.20. Ideally the measures of success of whistleblowing would include
acknowledgement by the accountable organisation that they listened, understood and investigated the concern, took any remedial action and sought to work with the whistleblower to enable them either to continue in or successfully reintegrate into their role(s) without detriment. In this case this has not yet been achieved.
Given the known political and media associations of some who have attacked NHS Scotland from within, the inaccuracy of many claims, exposed across social media, the harm done by the resultant media coverage to the thousands who work there and the effects on the wider public, the report is compassionate and forgiving.