My Beautiful (Ministerial) Launderette: The National Guardian and Paula Vennells

In 2014, shortly after publication of the Midstaffs public inquiry, Jeremy Hunt came under mounting pressure to improve the NHS’ handling of whistleblowing.

He commissioned Robert Francis to conduct the Freedom To Speak Up Review, which made weak recommendations and was totally silent about the nature of the concerns which whistleblowers had reported to the Review.

Robert Francis later indicated through correspondence that most of the evidence submitted to the Review was destroyed.

Francis and the government devised a publicity tool called the Freedom To Speak Up model, which made it look as if something was being done, when nothing was done at all:

The Disinterested National Guardian & Robert Francis’ Unworkable Freedom To Speak Up Project

Henrietta Hughes, former Medical Director of NHS England London, the National Freedom To Speak Up Guardian sits at the head of the project. She has helped those proven to have harmed whistleblowers to launder reputation. For example, David Loughton CEO of Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, who has been found by an investigation to have harmed a whistleblower and has been criticised in several other whistleblower cases, tweeted this smiling image of a visit by Hughes:

David Loughton tweet Henrietta Hughes Selfie Oct 2019

Similarly, Henrietta Hughes visited West Suffolk NHS Foundation NHS Trust in January 2018 and praised their speaking up culture when in reality it was failing badly, and was criticised by the CQC. Just a few months after her visit, the trust launched a whistleblower witch hunt and demanded fingerprints and handwriting samples from its staff as part of the witch hunt:

Henrietta Hughes selfie with Steve Dunn 11.01.2018
Henrietta Hughes posing with the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust Freedom To Speak Up Guardian and Chief Executive on a visit in January 2018

The latest example of National Guardian-assisted spin is at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, where highly controversial former Post Office Ltd CEO Paula Vennells is now billeted.

Paula Vennells led Post Office Ltd between 2012 and 2019, in which time wrongful prosecutions of subpostmasters continued when the real problem was glitches in Post Office Ltd’s Horizon IT system. During her tenure, the denial of the wrongful prosecutions was maintained. Many millions of public money was wasted making subpostmasters and their families suffer even more. In December 2019 the High Court reached a damning conclusion against Post Office Ltd and its cover up of its Horizon IT failures.

The key Post Office court judgments and documents are all available here at the website of the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance, led by Alan Bates:

This Private Eye podcast with Nick Wallis a journalist who has doggedly covered the Post Office trial in depth is an engaging and informative, if horrifying, listen:

Going Postal

Karl Flinders at Computer Weekly has also covered the Horizon IT scandal for years, and his frequent update reports all carry a very moving, ever growing chronology of all the years passed:

Government admits it was too passive managing Post Office as parliamentary pressure builds

As the Post Office Trial by 550 subpostmasters against Post Office Ltd hotted up, Vennells was given a golden parachute out in early 2019. The NHS was abused as one of the designated evac landing strips, as was the Cabinet Office board. The regulator NHS Improvement was directly responsible for her appointment as Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust chair, because the trust is non-foundation.

Fit and Proper Person referrals have been made to the CQC, the relevant health regulator, about Vennell’s appointment to Imperial’s  board.

The scandal rages on with ever growing pressure at Westminster for a public inquiry as more MPs learn about the scandal and are horrified.

And what does the National Guardian do?

She rushed in as a supporting act at a the first ever Patient Safety conference held by Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust on 24 February 2020, to lend some superficial governance cachet.

Screenshot 2020-02-26 at 01.34.17

Disgracefully, Hughes peddled some selective anecdotes from her appalling ‘100 Voices’ campaign last year. This consisted of the naked manufacture of Good News by pleading with NHS trust Guardians to send in stories of success.

That’s right. You heard right. Henrietta Hughes a senior public servant, a doctor registered with the General Medical Council and a doctor trained in the proper, ethical handling of evidence sent out a communiqué for only positive results from the trial that is the Freedom To Speak Up project. Imagine what would happen if a senior doctor publicly did that with trials on a new drug.

Using these third hand accounts given by employer bodies, about what whistleblowers are purportedly supposed to have said, Hughes gave Imperial staff the impression that it is now safer to speak up and culture change is happening:

Screenshot 2020-02-26 at 01.41.55

That’s in a trust led by Paula Vennells, Queen of Denial and Post Office Ltd chief who presided over what the High Court has lambasted as “extremely aggressive” and “attritional” legal tactics, that whittled away the real value of the compensation upon which harmed subpostmasters were so dependent.

How irresponsible and uncaring could Hughes be?

But it is not the first time by a country mile that Hughes has manufactured Good News.

The Unbearable Lightness of the National Guardian’s Office. Or how the National Guardian spends our money on publicity for the government’s Freedom To Speak Up Scam. A Night at the HSJ Awards

A complaint has recently led to an NHS Improvement recommendation that her Office should take greater care to evidence its public claims. More of that another time.

Adding to the dubious governance motif, a much feted speaker at the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust was from British Airways:

Screenshot 2020-02-26 at 01.39.44

British Airways has just been exposed for blacklisting whistleblowers:

“British Airways’ Chief Exec told managers to “screen” potential whistle­blowers and avoid hiring them after one raised safety ­concerns about its planes.

CEO Alex Cruz sent an email containing the explosive remarks after a BA employee claimed unsafe practices put passengers in danger.”

To top it all, Vennells herself appeared at the Imperial safety conference on 24 February 2020 and was quoted as emphasising the importance of…… that work, and of kindness:

Screenshot 2020-02-26 at 01.38.23

I am incapable of any further comment at this point.

Pass the Persil.



Horizon – not fit for purpose, and Post Office knew it!

Referral of Paula Vennells CBE Chair of Imperial Healthcare NHS Trust, former Post Office Ltd CEO, under CQC Regulation 5 Fit and Proper Persons (FPPR). But what was the government’s role in the Post Office scandal?

After the Post Office Horizon Trial: Paula Vennells, Mammon and the bishops

A Safeguarding referral to the Church of England regarding Rev Paula Vennells, former Post Office Ltd CEO & current Chair of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust’s whistleblower witch hunt, National Guardian’s visit and an object lesson in superficiality


Screenshot 2020-01-11 at 05.17.06



3 thoughts on “My Beautiful (Ministerial) Launderette: The National Guardian and Paula Vennells

  1. Thank you, Dr A,

    It’s very difficult to read the evidence presented and retain a full stomach. If I were to express what I would wish to, I know it would be unprintable.
    Nevertheless. looking on the bright side, if, as seems possible, I succumb to the fatality of the coronavirus or lack of essentials due to our institutions being dominated by the quality of leadership described above, I shall be grateful that I am at last separated from these creatures and will no longer be dazzled by their smiles – sadly, more reminiscent of Dracula than the Mona Lisa.
    The house of cards will fall eventually and inevitably.


  2. A network of lies from a network of liars.
    They are all model net”workers”.
    What we all need is a “Networkout”.
    A pulse raising, sweat inducing effort that will combat apathy, flush out the toxins, invigorate scrutiny, and expose the dissemblers.
    Thank you for continuing to reveal who they are and why they are.

    Liked by 1 person

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