We can continue the blame game. The BMA can hit me around the head over the fact I went to Dr Phil Hammond as a last resort, without daring to out myself when challenged. It can bankrupt me and batter my reputation. It has the money, power and minds to do all that. But this is a sideshow.
Let’s not forget two things.
First, I’m still serving NHS patients despite all that’s happened, and doing so with OK feedback. Second, Dr Hammond reported the most serious concerns – that to this day have still not been resolved. His May 2012 article, over which the BMA has won its case, reported the avoidable death of a child whose surgeon had returned from extended leave but was left unsupervised, despite warnings against this. His December 2012 article, which caused upset in the High Court, reported the covert claims against the mental health of whistleblower Mr Shiban Ahmed.
Alder Hey has told Parliamentary Select Committees that these matters have all been investigated and each time been found to be baseless. But on oath, it’s had to admit this isn’t true. Despite Private Eye, there’s been no Alder Hey investigation of those behind the claims against Mr Ahmed.
So what can be done? The most important thing in any whistleblowing case is the investigation of the primary concerns. The most common diversion from that is a focus on the manner of the whistleblowing, rather than its content – attacking the mode of disclosure as a breach of confidentiality (or other rules), while ignoring the issues that matter to patient safety.
So the BMA could help here. Stop attacking me, and seek to help its member, Mr Ahmed. The first thing it can do is disclose why, and on whose say so, it tried to have him undergo a psychiatric assessment, when 30 of his colleagues were vouching for his sound health. This is not an attack, it’s a fair request for information.
Second, it can meet with whistleblowers and learn from our experiences.
Third, it can campaign for a change in the law, to develop protections for whistleblowers that are more than illusory; protections that operate from the point of disclosure; that protect anonymity (and punish Trust witch hunts); that mandate full investigation of concerns.
The NHS needs doctors who feel safe to raise concerns. Those doctors need a union that supports something better than the flawed status quo.