Imagine that another doctor asks you to look out for him because he’s reported serious safety concerns and fears retaliation. What if he’s then suspended, and no one quite knows why? What if the safety concerns aren’t dealt with either. And what if having voiced concerns about all this, you learn his attackers at the hospital now want to attack you?
The hospital offers you money to ignore both his mistreatment and the safety issues: money to abandon them both and walk away. Then at that point you get hard evidence showing a cover up by those who attacked your colleague; a cover up from legal proceedings, aided and abetted by the hospital.
Unintentionally risking contempt of court, you send that evidence to national regulators, but they fail to act. What do you do now?
Do you take the money – as your union wants – and learn the lesson that your NHS career needs you to ignore safety problems and abuse of power by those too well-connected?
Or do you escalate those concerns, in line with your professional duty, up to another senior doctor and respected investigative journalist?
I chose the latter.
What happened next?
Would you believe that the most serious concerns remain un(der)investigated to this day? Instead, I’ve been subjected to a terrifying hunt-the-whistleblower exercise, in which I dared not come out when first challenged.
Seizing on this, my own union, the British Medical Association (BMA), has taken me to court and rendered me insolvent. It argued that it would never have funded my legal challenge against the hospital had it known I’d escalated my concerns this way. For five years, the BMA has hauled me into courts and sued for its costs long after it knew I couldn’t afford representation to defend myself.
Without success, I counter-argued that they’d been managing me rather than representing me – by acting clandestinely for my attackers in ways they have still only partially disclosed.
This then is the irony. If I’d been a banker, reporting misuse of money, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) could have protected my anonymity and punished the bank for hunting me. However, as a doctor, the hospital hunted me, without the slightest hindrance from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) or courts. Indeed, the British Medical Association has exploited the very fact that I was hunted, to sue me for not admitting to being the source of the evidence.
Why would the BMA protect patients less well than the FCA guards our cash?