Herald finds only two whistleblowers who became unwell after it

From Hannah Rodger today:

A DOCTOR who tried to raise the alarm about problems with Scotland’s flagship super hospital suffered post-traumatic stress as a result of the ordeal. Dr Christine Peters, 45, said she became severely unwell after years of raising concerns with management about what she felt the problems were at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH).

I have some experience of this.

In 2014, my research into BBC and STV coverage of the run-up to the Referendum, led to the BBC reporting me to my employer, the University of the West of Scotland, for ‘bringing both the BBC and the University into disrepute.’

I was worried for a bit until my employer decided not to sanction me but also to disassociate itself from my research.

In 2016, I reported the University of the West of Scotland’s board to itself, to the Scottish Government and to the Public Services Ombudsman, for the misuse of public funds on in particular, vanity projects enabling senior staff to holiday at the taxpayer’s expense in some of the more attractive parts of the world, from Berlin to the Seychelles. The UWS board denied it all and the other two made it clear that universities can do what they like.

The Scottish press would not touch the story. The SNP MPs in the area around the University would do nothing.

An attempt to bully me into taking part and then to stop me telling colleagues, about the project to set-up a Berlin Campus with a creepy shell organisation, linked to NATO, but rejected by other universities and even by wikipedia, triggered my whistle-blowing. I feared damage to the reputation of the University.

I still have the document. If you’d like to read it, email me.

At the end of 2016, I retired 6 months before my 65th birthday. Previously as a professor, enjoying my job, I had intended to work on for as many years as I could. I had to retire because I could not stay awake at work having developed sleep apnoea.

After retirement, a difficult period of addiction to painkillers and the abuse of alcohol and sleeping tablets followed. Not easily, I pulled myself out of that two years ago.

Who is to blame? Me, almost entirely. I had an addictive personality. My treatment by the BBC and by my employers was no doubt contributory but so were other stressful factors in life of the kind most experience.

I don’t know what the experience of these two doctors was but their reactions to criticism by managers or by colleagues is essentially their own. While they do, absolutely, deserve our empathy and help from the NHS in dealing with the symptoms, the individual reactions to stress of two cannot be reasonably used as the only evidence of some kind of dysfunctionality in a massive complex organisation which judging by repeated polls, is held in high esteem by thousands of employees and by millions of patients.

11 thoughts on “Herald finds only two whistleblowers who became unwell after it

  1. Thank you for the account of your own travails and the effect these had on you. One of the better outcomes of the increased discourse about mental health is that more people are, like you have done, been prepared to admit to having had problems and to have set these out for others.

    It is very likely that the two doctors in the report have spoken honestly about their own experiences, but, as you say, the fact that they had these unpleasant and long lasting experiences does not mean that the 10 000 people who work at the QEUH are responsible, or are incompetent in their work, or that the hospital buildings themselves are entirely without merit.

    What is baleful and inhuman is the way in which the Herald, for its own political purposes is exploiting the suffering of these people to pursue a political objective.

    The suffering of whistleblowers is an issue in its own right, no matter where they work – University of the West of Scotland, QEUH, Barclay’s Bank, The Scottish Labour Party, St X’s Parish Church, etc. – even in the Herald.

    In a similar vein we again had BBC Scotland and Mr Anas Sarwar MSP exploiting the suffering of two grief-stricken families who had relatives who died in the QEUH. The deaths occurred at a time when infections were discovered within the recently completed hospital. Two official reports have indicated that in one case the infection was NOT caused by the identified problem and, in the other case, no link can be made and evidence about this particular infection from elsewhere in the world suggests that it is highly unlikely that there was no link. Yet, every time, we have the relatives pressed to say that there was ‘a cover up’ and that they want to know, ‘how their loved ones died’ ‘to prevent other families experiencing the grief they have’. These families are being cynically presented by the media as offering views which are as valid as those who investigated and wrote the reports. There are then demands for ANOTHER inquiry. What is its remit to be? Who is to carry out this enquiry?

    Sadly, these media actions remind me of how the media has exploited the tragic Ms Diane Fergus, mother of murdered toddler, Jamie Bulger. This was a horrific killing, made even more shocking by the fact that it had been perpetrated by two 7 year-olds. It is clear that the two boys were not psychologically capable of comprehending the horrific nature of what they had done and the law dealt with them in the only way it could in a civilised society. The conduct of many people in Liverpool at the time was a frightening example of how ordinary people can become a lynch mob. But this was fanned and kept alive by the media. Ms Fergus, who had been shopping accompanied by Jamie, will most likely blame herself for what happened – yet any one of us who are parents and who looked after our children as best we could, could have been in the same situation as she tragically found herself. Most of us can understand her anger, her grief, her bewilderment, her desire for things to have been different. And, that her son was killed by two boys, only a few years older than Jamie, makes it even more incomprehensible to her and to the rest of us. Courageously, she has found some kind of closure, has a new partner, has given birth to other children. But, the horror is still lodged in her memory and our misanthropic media reactivate it any time there is information about the rehabilitation or otherwise of the two perpetrators of the killing.

    And these ‘journalists’ demand we do not hold them to account because, we are told, they’ hold power to account’ – the very power for whom most of them work.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I remember Jeane Freeman stating that the QEUH had a better infection record than other Scottish hospitals.

    Keep on Trucking John, your country needs you.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I appreciate your candour in writing about personal difficulties .Whistle blowing must be a very stressful option for a concerned employee . Were it not so there would be many more “insiders” exposing injustices and inefficiencies.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Thanks for your candour, John. Could not have been easy for you.

    I’ve found it odd for some years now, there have been, apparently, no whistleblowers within the ranks of the BBC, or civil service, or Scottish Office etc reporting on misconduct vis-à-vis Scotland.
    Parhaps there is nothing untoward to report.
    Perhaps they fear reporting anything to the “Scottish” media, in case of leaking their names.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Bullying often happens when those feeling powerful see a weak spot in their victim. My neighbours have been bullying me for years, I have been onto victim support, but to talk about it would bring too much to the surface, for now. There is probably some PTSD, but I don’t blame myself and I don’t think those being bullied or victimised should blame themselves. Stress on top of stress is not good.

    The NHS is a HUGE organisation as are the universities, and whistle blowing is obviously something they can argue against, and suppress, because they are made up of people who protect their own interests.

    The ‘media’ however, know exactly how to expand on any failing in an organisation, should it suit their agenda, and this as well as other peoples’ vulnerability definitely suits their agenda. In this case, the Herald wants rid of Jeanne Freemand and eventually, Nicola Sturgeon.

    Do they ever do articles about people who are denied basic survival needs
    (and therefor human rights are denied) by the English ‘UK’ government, their DWP etc, and I mean indepth journalism, not a wee story at the end of the daily rags ‘opinion’ section. No it does not suit their agenda. To use peoples’ vulnerablity is just downright sinister, but that’s the Britnat ‘media’ for you!

    Lastly, ‘destroyed our lives’ is a strong claim, and of course that can be dependant on how the person does deal with major stress from outside and outwith their control, and it’s not always possible and certainly not easy to carry on as normal.

    I wonder if the two women took the NHS to court? Just be interesting to know how far this was taken if their lives were ‘destroyed’. It’s obviously awful for them to have been put through any bullying or stress because of their job.

    The Herald and the BBC etc, use this type of story to SNP bad, it’s not out of concern fotr the two women at all, that is the last thing on the minds of those in the so called media, that’s the dreadful thing here.

    How do the BBC etc deal with whistleblowers? These organisations are no better than any other when it comes to protecting themselves and those at the top, in positions of power.

    I don’t think you should blame yourself John, at all in fact. Very glad you have come out the other side, as they say and producing damn good articles on your blog! Stay well.


    1. You make a good point. The media actively practise bullying either to get their stories, I.e. in the terms they want them or to force people out of jobs that they want for their cronies or to intimidate people investigating them and their sponsors. The Herald bullied Graeme Speirs and Angela Haggerty because he had criticised Rangers FC and she had expressed fraternal support for him as an NUJ member.


      1. Alasdair

        I have a memory of “Spiersy” being at the herald in 1999. As i remember he ridiculed Scots for getting in his view carried away after we won the 5 Nations . As I remember he left the paper shortly after this. I have googled this and drawn a blank.


  6. It’s a difficult one isn’t it: if you sign an employment contract that effectively says ‘thou shalt not grass up your employer’, well then, whistleblowing is going to lose you your job – but that’s a private industry type employment, I am sure universities and public bodies have no such clauses. Difficult position to be put in, if the morality of their actions are wholly unacceptable to you, but then most people just keep schtum. So then enablng this kind of casual minor corruption – why is it so acceptable to most people? It’s prevalent for sure – but it gets worse the larger the organisation, because there is more money involved and a greater degree of separation between the plebs and those at the top.

    So, what we have seen over the past decade or so are more and more amalgamations – super colleges (and there is much wrangling for power there), colleges turning into universities (more money to be had in the latter), one big police fore, super hospitals, one big fire brigade; everything bigger and more centralised. The fire brigade seems to be doing okay, for some reason, and of course the hospitals. I had hoped the single police force would weed out the corruption, but things seem to be going backward. Higher education is going downhill. Not the people working in them, it’s the structures, the leaders, that are the problem. Smaller institutions would mean less power to a larger number of people – it would reduce the scope of the corruption.

    Anyway, all strength to you John for sticking with your principles – and we do have to accept that it’s our own choices and how we feel about them that causes the stress. But other people have a responsibility to consider their behaviour too, that’s why bullying is not acceptable. If your peer group turn out to have completely different values to your own, it’s never going to end well, but a cost-benefit analysis for most people will probably result in a ‘best to put up and shut up’ conclusion. There aren’t any right answers really.

    The choices the media makes on which whistleblowers to report is interesting – they make such a big deal about the ones they do report on, but in fact the are enabling much of the more severe systemic corruption by not reporting the ones you don’t hear about. Chris Ponting? It’s what the papers don’t tell us that I worry most about.


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