To House of Commons Health Committee, 8 August 2016
Dear Dr Wollaston and colleagues,
Lack of progress on NHS Improvement’s employment support scheme for whistleblowers
I write to pass on update information about the re-employment of NHS whistleblowers. As you will be aware, I have been concerned about the slow progress in implementing this important part of the Freedom to Speak Up Review recommendations. NHS Improvement(NHSI) has been especially slow and still has nothing in place for trust whistleblowers, whereas NHS England has already (In May) sought expressions of interest from primary care whistleblowers to join a pilot.
NHSI advised that it would update me in June. I chased in July for a response. It was evident that there was no substantive update available, and that NHSI’s timetable was worryingly loose. In consequence, I asked NHSI to share documents from this workstream and also to advise on budget for the re-employment scheme. NHSI treated this as an FOI request, rather part of the normal stakeholder engagement process. Extraordinarily, NHSI has now declined to transparently share any documents about the development of its scheme with whistleblowers (see correspondence attached and below):
“The exemption is engaged as NHS Improvement’s qualified person, its Chief Executive (Jim Mackey), is of the opinion that disclosure of this information would be likely to inhibit the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation (section 36(2)(b)(ii)). “
NHSI indicates that beyond some stakeholder engagement events organised by NHS England, last held in February 2016, NHSI has no intention of further involving whistleblowers in developing its scheme.
NHSI has also advised that there is still no budget allocated for its part of the whistleblower re-employment scheme (NHS England has allocated about £250K).
I am very concerned about this lack of progress by NHSI and poor oversight by the Department of Health. This is a serious obstacle to setting the right tone about NHS whistleblowing governance. On a practical level, it is also unfortunate because trust whistleblowers form the majority. In common with most whistleblowers, I think that the Freedom to Speak Review was ineffective, and that evidence of this continues to mount. A much more robust and penetrating intervention is required.
Dr Minh Alexander
cc Secretary of State for Health
Chairs of Public Accounts Committee and Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee
FOI disclosure by NHS Improvement 8 August 2016 about the development of its employment support scheme for whistleblowers