Jus’ like that, says Henrietta

Memorandum of Non-Understanding from the Ministry of Love


Whistleblowers have serious misgivings about Robert Francis’ and the Department of Health’s Freedom to Speak Up Review on NHS whistleblowing. In short, its main use is for government spin. The central plank of the Freedom to Speak Up Review is the creation of a National Guardian for whistleblowing. This office has been entrusted to the Care Quality Commission. The project has been characterised by CQC gamesiness, delay, incompetence and the hasty resignation of the first appointee. [1] CQC refuses to acknowledge its mishandling of the office or shortcomings by the latest appointee.

Henrietta Hughes the replacement National Guardian provoked disbelief and ridicule when she started her job earlier this month. In an interview with the Times, she suggested that NHS whistleblowing would be sorted “just like that” if staff cheered up. [2] Thus, she trivialised the deep establishment corruption and related suffering faced by whistleblowers, and she unfairly blamed frontline staff for deterring whistleblowing. Her gaffs were widely reported. Embarrassing details included her reference to the movie “Love Actually” and her suggestion that oxytocin should be the “predominant neurotransmitter” for NHS staff.

A salvage operation was attempted shortly after, when Henrietta gave an interview to the Health Service Journal. [3] The resulting article did not feature any of her views on smiling, Love Actually or oxytocin. Instead, it was reported that she had whistleblown twice in her career, but with scant details and context provided.

The first occasion related to a member of staff who had health problems and was receiving treatment that had resulted in them losing “insight into their own clinical abilities”.

“It was a very sad situation, but that member of staff was then supported with occupational health and time off, and it was the right thing to do,” Dr Hughes said.

The second incident involved an administrator who was using a health emergency badge for parking her car and later attempted to pass herself off as a nurse when she received a parking ticket.”

Whistleblowers are curious to know more, given that her comments to the Times are not compelling evidence of much insight or lived experience of whistleblowing.

The Health Service Journal reported – that as originally envisaged by Robert Francis and the Department of Health – Henrietta is not going to investigate cases or make judgments about the behaviour of local employers. She will only stand on the sidelines and offer non-binding recommendations, in so far as they can be formulated without any investigation.

Her predecessor had the grace to admit she was unhappy that ‘historic’ cases had been excluded from her remit. In contrast, Henrietta reportedly views such cases as burdensome to her ‘small’ (but as yet undisclosed) budget. This conveniently echoes the line that Francis took when he argued that past cases were too difficult to be worth looking at.

I collated the expressions of concern about Henrietta’s musings on cheerfulness and her finger wagging at an already demoralised NHS workforce, and sent them to Peter Wyman CQC chair, the day after the Times coverage.


In response, there is not one scintilla of regret from Mr Wyman about the dismay caused by Henrietta’s remarks. [4] Nope. The Party stands firm behind Citizen Hughes. By implication, it disdains proles who question her authority.

From letter by Peter Wyman 19 October 2016:



Neither does Mr Wyman share any of my concerns about CQC’s handling of the National Guardian’s office and selection process. There was also other mischief in his missive, but I’ll deal with that another time.

It’s good to know the Ministry of Love is so receptive to feedback. It is perfectly equipped to deal with whistleblowers and to deliver Big Brother’s vision of a “single version of the truth”. [5]









[5] Patients First and Foremost. Department of Health March 2013


[1] Jeremy Hunt humiliated as whistleblowing Tsar quits before she started, Andrew Gregory, Mirror 8 March 2016


[2] Happiness is the best medicine, grumpy doctors and nurses told. Chris Smyth, The Times, 10 October 2016



[3] Whistleblower guardian ‘will not be an investigation body’. Will Hazel, Health Service Journal, 12 October 2016


[4] Letter from Peter Wyman CQC Chair 19 October 2016



8 thoughts on “Jus’ like that, says Henrietta

  1. As I am on the side-lines, observing every institution that I encounter hurling themselves into life’s U-bend, I enjoyed reading this. Thank you.
    I think Dr Hughes was appointed to bring comfort to those who appointed her – the usual trick to further demoralise those who are not as thick as custard.
    I do have one useful suggestion. The next person to be invited to be the ‘Guardian’ should be the barrister, Henry Gow. He emerged from dire circumstances in Glasgow, having been a survivor of serious assaults by the age of 14 and joined the army, who at least fed him. He served in the parachute regiment, the SAS, the Royal Ulster Constabulary and then studied law being called to the bar in the mid 1990s.
    He would understand all about whistleblowing and the cowardly, self-serving management that produces it.
    He seems to be a good man – I guess that disqualifies him.


  2. Another excellent article Minh!

    Could I suggest that after a few weeks you should put a proposal to HSJ

    or HosDoc (not even sure if they’re still around) or similar to negotiate a

    paid column?

    I like the way you’re quietly ridiculing by calling her only by her first name too.

    I wonder whether Ian is drawing a cartoon involving a Tommy Cooper fez……

    Christine England 07791 079225 0203 289 7752 christineengland@hotmail.com



  3. link to hsj article with hh does not come as i am not a subscriber yet…

    can you post somehow?

    trying to get nhsi to provide!


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