Letter 11 October 2016 to Peter Wyman CQC Chair, about ongoing issues with the National Freedom to Speak Up Guardian
I have written to Mr Wyman to bring to his attention to adverse reactions by whistleblowers, NHS staff and the public to comments made by Henrietta Hughes, the replacement National Guardian, in her first interview with the press.
The full letter with all attached comments is uploaded here:
THE MAIN CONTENT OF THE LETTER IS AS FOLLOWS:
To Peter Wyman, Chair of Care Quality Commission, 11 October 2016
Dear Mr Wyman,
CQC’s handling of the National Freedom to Speak Up Guardian’s office
When you appeared before the Health Committee at your pre-appointment hearing on 1 December 2015 for the CQC Chair, you commented thus about NHS whistleblowing: “I need to understand properly whether there really is a problem and, if there is a problem, what else we can do beyond the things I know the CQC is doing to make it easy.”
I hope by now that you are familiar with the contents of the Freedom to Speak Up Review report February 2015 and Health Committee’s findings of January 2015 that the treatment of whistleblowers is a stain upon the NHS’ reputation, and that you agree there “really is a problem” with NHS whistleblowing governance.
The CQC promised in December 2014 “We will hold health and social care services to a high standard of listening and acting on people’s concerns. We are committed to apply the same standards to ourselves”. To that end, I write to pass on a collation of some adverse reactions from whistleblowers, NHS staff and the public to the new National Guardian’s comments in an interview with the press, revealed yesterday.
The responses are listed below. You will note that the general gist of many of the comments can be summarised, as per one doctor’s comment, as a perception that NHS staff have been told: “…put up, shut up and smile”. This is obviously an unfortunate outcome when the stated aim is to encourage staff disclosure. You will also note that senior NHS whistleblowers Dr Heather Wood and Amanda Pollard, who uncovered the Mid Staffs care failings and or gave evidence to the Mid Staffs public inquiry are amongst those who have expressed concerns. Dr Kim Holt who worked for CQC on whistleblowing has now also expressed concerns.
The National Guardian office has been deeply troubled since the outset of its short life. The first National Guardian resigned earlier this year, within two months of appointment and after wrongly advising that her office was not a legally “prescribed body” under the Public Interest Disclosure Act. I believe further serious questions now arise about CQC’s selection process and its exclusion of whistleblowers from this process.
The CQC’s position specification for the National Guardian post required that the candidate must have:
“Ability to work collaboratively with individuals from Board level to the frontline …Ability to present complex issues clearly and with sensitivity to individuals, groups and the media….Excellent communication skills, both written and oral…. Ability to inspire trust and confidence of a wide range of stakeholders”
The effective handling of whistleblowing is a critical issue, especially when the NHS is in turmoil and NHS staff need genuine freedom to speak up. It is still not clear exactly what the National Guardian’s remit will be. I hope that for the sake of patients, the current serious situation is properly and actively resolved.
I previously received a letter from CQC that was critical of the fact that I had copied some of my correspondence to select committee members. I do not agree that it is for CQC to determine my communication with parliament. Accordingly, I copy this correspondence to parliament because of the public interest nature of the issues involved.
Dr Minh Alexander
NHS whistleblower and former consultant psychiatrist
cc Health Committee, Public Accountants Committee, Public Administration and
Constitutional Affairs Committee
Chris Wormald Permanent Secretary DH
Sir Jeremy Heywood, Head of the Civil Service
My own comments about the National Guardian’s office and the present incumbent’s recent comments can be found here:
Other comments are as follows:
|Amanda Pollard CQC whistleblower and former CQC inspector:
“When I attended release of Mid Staffs Public Inquiry report, I genuinely wouldn’t have imagined so little progress made by 2017”