Protecting NHS whistleblowers

Thank you to the many people who helped fund our legal challenge. The Court of Appeal finally upheld that Trust bosses made false safety claims and committed detriments in law. But judges refused to admit it was due to whistleblowing, allowing instead that bosses made false safety claims only to protect reputation.

Overview

I was a children’s surgeon at Alder Hey Hospital Trust and I reported serious safety concerns involving harm to children. In an environment where this wasn’t welcomed, this is known as blowing the whistle. Seven things then happened.

1. My concerns went largely unaddressed

The easy concerns were addressed, the harder ones, fudged, and the most serious problems ignored.

2. I was forced out of my job

I was forced from work because those I’d blown the whistle on would no longer work with me. They argued it was not the fact that I’d blown the whistle, but the fact that trust had broken down.

3. Double dealing by my union

I sought sanctuary with my union, the British Medical Association (BMA). Initially, it was willing to challenge the hospital. But, as matters progressed, it had no appetite for taking on those of its members now seeking my removal. I learnt only later that the BMA was running a case against me, on behalf of my opponents, even as it was meant to be supporting me.

4. Attempts to pay off my concerns

The hospital and BMA were both keen on an out-of-court settlement with a pay-off and destruction of documents. At that time, key documents came to light proving a serious cover up, just as I’d reported.

5. Release of evidence to the press

As a last resort when the authorities failed to act, I released those key documents to the press. This led to the BMA withdrawing financial support which caused my own case to collapse as I could no longer defend myself. No action has been taken against those involved in the cover-up. I ended up having to pay the costs of the hospital and, after a further court battle, the BMA’s too (because I’d not come out to them as a press source when challenged).

6. Bankruptcy for refusing to be paid off

As a result, I’ve been forced into bankruptcy, despite having worked the whole of my career for the betterment of the NHS.

7. Proving the hospital misled even Parliament over safety concerns

I sued the hospital after it misled Parliament with claims that all safety concerns were investigated and were baseless. In truth, it knew the concerns were well founded and that it still hasn’t looked into the most serious issues.

In 2020, the Court of Appeal finally upheld that Trust bosses had made false safety claims and repeatedly committed harm. But it then excused this misconduct as reputation management.

Legal costs prevented us dragging this through the Supreme Court despite presenting a clear case that reputation cannot excuse safety claims proven false.

Next steps

I’m joining calls by MP Dr Whitford and others for a complete overhaul of the whistleblowing legislation. It’s over 20 years old and has been gamed to destruction by institutions and their lawyers. Worst of all, it still places no requirement on the institution to investigate.

The 2020 public inquiry into child abuse found that institutions turned a blind eye to concerns, repeatedly putting reputation above safety. We need new laws to deal with this ugly and unsettling fact.

As time allows, I’m open to answer questions and I’d welcome your feedback.

Best wishes

Dr Edwin Jesudason

@Edwin1432

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