By Dr Minh Alexander retired consultant psychiatrist 6 April 2022
This is a very brief post primarily for NHS Ambulance trust staff.
The National Guardian’s Office (NGO) website had a notice that it had an upcoming thematic case review on ambulance trusts but provided no details.
I submitted a Freedom of Information request to find out more.
The NGO has today responded minimally.
It is now clear that the NGO has shockingly been dragging out this piece of work since June 2020, when it seems was first discussed at its Advisory and Liaison Board. This committee consists of Robert Francis CQC NED, Andrew Morris, then NHS Improvement NED and now Chair and the National Guardian. (Incidentally, the name of this committee has been softened – it used to be the Accountability and Liaison Board – but who likes to be accountable?)
“This was first discussed with our Advisory and Liaison Board in June 2020.”
It is very hard to understand why the NGO has not given this work greater priority in view of the great difficulties faced by ambulance trust staff.
I asked the NGO for any analyses of whistleblowing in ambulance services carried out by the NGO to date. It seems none have been done save for the routine ‘Speak Up’ index material that is done for all trusts.
Moreover, the NGO has received only twelve public interest disclosures from NHS ambulance trusts in the four years from 1st April 2017 to 31st March 2021.
This is despite the well known staff relations troubles in ambulance trusts across the country and publicised staff whistleblowing to the press.
Importantly, reportedly, none of these twelve whistleblowing disclosures to the NGO came from ambulance trust Freedom To Speak Up Guardians in this period. That is, the people in ambulance trusts with responsibility for advocating for whistleblowers and escalating their concerns until they were resolved, apparently did not do so despite the severe problems and the staff deaths such as at East of England.
The NGO has for the time being ducked disclosure of all the documents that I have requested about the thematic case review by hiding behind Section 22 FOIA – documents intended for publication – even though I have asked for some documents that are not intended for publication.
As the NGO now claims it will be publishing review documentation “in the near future”, I will wait for publication and then pursue any outstanding data that the NGO fails to disclose.
In the meantime, here is the sparse FOI disclosure of 6 April 2022 by the National Guardian about the planned thematic case review of ambulance trusts.
Update 7 April 2022
The figures about ambulance staff disclosures to the NGO are not correct. There is at least one case missing from the stats. I have written to the National Guardian about record keeping by her Office.
Dr Jayne Chidgey-Clark
6 April 2022
Dear Dr Chidgey-Clark,
Record keeping and case files at the National Guardian’s Office
Thank you for the FOI response from your office regarding the planned thematic case review on ambulance trusts.
I believe on cross checking, including with the whistleblower in question, that your data about qualifying disclosures received by your office from ambulance trusts is incorrect, and that you are missing at least one more case from your stats.
I am rather concerned about how cases are logged and recorded. This is especially because incomplete records were an issue that arose previously in a matter of broken whistleblower confidentiality. That earlier matter was the subject of an upheld complaint against the National Guardian’s Office.
There seems to be an overlap in the NGO personnel who handled the case now missing from your stats and the earlier incompletely recorded case which led to an upheld complaint.
Is it possible to have some reassurance about the standards for record keeping and case file protocol followed by your office, including how telephone calls are logged and emails are filed? Are there written standards and expectations?
Dr Minh Alexander”
UPDATE 8 APRIL 2022
I received a comment on this blog from a someone who would like to be anonymous. By agreement, this is a redacted version of what they wrote:
Very interesting article about the NGO and ambulance trusts, thank you.
You may be interested to learn that the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian at REDACTED Ambulance Service Trust has now resigned, the role has been taken over by Dr REDACTED the Medical Director. You may not be surprised to learn that Dr REDACTED will only consider Freedom to Speak Up requests if they involve patient safety – he does not think staff concerns about bullying or whistleblowing are relevant.
Surprised? No, I’m not either.
Glad that you are back campaigning again and I hope all’s well with you.
I asked the trust in question about this. After a lengthy pause, it denied these allegations and stated that it had two replacement Freedom To Speak Up Guardians in place. It denied that the types of concern that staff were allowed to raise had been restricted.
Please click and add your signature to this petition to reform UK whistleblowing law – whistleblowers protect us all but weak UK law leaves them wholly exposed and it is a threat to public safety
The latest NHS staff survey shows as usual that NHS ambulance trusts have the highest levels of bullying, and that ambulance staff report the greatest burnout:
This post shares an FOI response from WMAS about eight staff suicides since 2018 and further correspondence with the National Guardian:
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A perfect, clear cut example of why UK whistleblowing law – PIDA – is completely unfit for purpose. The case of a gold standard whistleblowing case, Tribunal tested and fully upheld – which still resulted in a six year ordeal of persecution and harassment for whistleblower Dr Jasna Macanovic consultant renal physician and very importantly, still left patients unprotected.