Two thirds of NHS England’s whistleblowers don’t want to be identified by the organisation

By Dr Minh Alexander retired consultant psychiatrist 9 October 2022

This is a very brief post to share data just published by NHS England on 7 October 2022.

An annual internal Freedom To Speak Up report has been prepared by Richard Barker, senior NHS England manager and decorated NHS insider.

The report shows that out of all NHS England’s departments, the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) has the second highest rate of whistleblowing complaints, at 3 cases per 100 staff:

Whatever NHS England has done following the much-publicised bullying and whistleblowing at HSIB in recent years, it does not seem to have reduced the need for staff to whistleblow.

HSIB whistleblowers and the Secret King’s Fund Fact Lite report

More secret HSIB reports and failures of HSIB maternity investigations

HSIB has sent 152 letters of concern to NHS trusts about maternity safety, including 15 letters to one trust

More Secret Whistleblowing Reports at HSIB, Susan Newton Consulting Limited and implementation of the Kark Review

The NHS England department with the highest rate of speaking up is the Commercial directorate, at 3.4 cases per 100 staff. One wonders what the disclosures concern.

The great variability in rates between NHS England departments is striking: from zero to 3.4 cases of speaking up per 100 staff.

The annual report contains the usual Freedom To Speak Up propaganda – that staff feel more able to speak up, that managers are taking it more seriously, etc…

This narrative is unconvincing though, when there is a current whistleblowing Employment Tribunal claim against NHS England.

The Freedom To Speak Up report in fact reveals that the majority of NHS England’s whistleblowers do not want their name revealed to the rest of the organisation:

“7. The number of cases received in 2021/22 (152) almost tripled in comparison to the previous year (56). The proportion of people speaking up anonymously fell from 59% to 35%. However, the proportion of people who wanted their name kept confidential rose 7% from 58% to 65%.”

Given the Machiavellian nature of the organisation, exactly how secure is its internal Freedom To Speak Up system and how confidential can any disclosures be?

We have recently seen a case emerge from the Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust of a Freedom To Speak Up Guardian cooperating with the employer’s detrimental withholding of information from whistleblower Dr Rajai Al-Jehani:

Fundamental failure of the NHS Freedom To Speak Up Project: Dr Rajai Al-Jehani unfairly sacked by Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust for whistleblowing on breaches of Human Tissue law, with suppression of linked investigations by University College London

NHS England is the Great Keeper of NHS Secrets and Dirty Deeds by the Department of Health and Social Care. It has helped to suppress whistleblowers in NHS provider organisations, and it often enforces silence by these organisations, to oil the wheels of government. Silencing of its own whistleblowers is to be expected.

Moreover, NHSE’s annual Freedom To Speak Up report urges greater human resources influence over whistleblowing processes at NHSE, when in fact human resources are a weapon deployed against whistleblowers.

“Closer collaborative working between FTSU Guardians and HR BPs in relation to directorate/region wide people-related initiatives eg anti bullying; civility and respect and inclusion.”

This suggestion is contrary to the 2015 Freedom To Speak Up Review report, which was critical of NHS organisations turning whistleblowing into an employment issue.

I would advise NHS England whistleblowers to be extremely circumspect about using internal whistleblowing routes. If a better way is possible, and after taking careful advice, take it.

Lastly, let us not forget that NHS England and its predecessor bodies have provided what has been called a “donkey sanctuary” for disgraced NHS serious managers, who are removed from wreaking damage on the frontline but are allowed to keep fat salaries.

Or that NHS England has dragged its feet for years on implementing the recommendations of the Kark Review, to introduce a system for identifying, tracking and debarring unfit NHS managers.

Let us not also forget that literally sitting at NHS England’s top table is Mark Cubbon, former CEO of Portsmouth Hospital NHS Trust, who failed to protect whistleblower Dr Jasna Macanovic Consultant Nephrologist from extremely serious reprisal:

NHS England has to date refused to do anything about Cubbon, now its Chief Delivery Officer.

And the reported rate of whistleblowing in his team? Zero

Dr Jasna Macanovic’s whistleblowing case

Dr Macanovic’s remedy hearing will be held shortly, but no compensation is enough for the years long ordeal that she suffered, with all the usual personal costs of a traumatic whistleblowing experience.

Both ET judgments issued to date in her Employment Tribunal claim contain valuable detail about the governance failures:

ET judgment Dr Jasna Macanovic v Portsmouth Hospital NHS Trust February 2020 Case Number 1400232/2018

ET judgment Dr Jasna Macanovic v Portsmouth Hospital NHS Trust January 2022 Case Number 1400232/2018


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, lets abusers off the hook and it is a threat to public safety.

Replace weak UK whistleblowing law and protect whistleblowers and the public


Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust sacked Dr Jasna Macanovic consultant nephrologist for whistleblowing to the General Medical Council

The National Guardian’s Office does not put a blue light on for ambulance staff

Paul Calvert North East Ambulance Service Whistleblower says NHS internal Freedom To Speak Up mechanism is “entirely ineffective, being used to cover up and delay matters”

SSOTP: Robert Francis’ exemplar trust has feet of clay, and Jeremy Hunt’s safety claims are un-evidenced

The toothlessness of the National Guardian’s Office: Why it cannot be a model for protecting whistleblowers

Another recent example of an NHS whistleblower who was unprotected and unfairly dismissed despite the introduction of the ineffective Freedom To Speak Up model is Jane Archibald Senior Nurse. She was specifically failed by the Freedom To Speak Up system at her trust:

Whistleblower Jane Archibald’s unfair dismissal by North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, and a “nurse” who was not qualified but ran epilepsy clinics and advised on epilepsy medication

2 thoughts on “Two thirds of NHS England’s whistleblowers don’t want to be identified by the organisation

  1. It’s always gratifying to see self-indulgent NHS nonsense exposed and laid out for scrutiny.
    Thank you. An invaluable exercise in itself.
    Apart from all of the other issues mentioned, it’s so disheartening to see the puffed-up titles of the plethora of ruling bureaucrats. That’s a red flag. I wonder what the Chief Delivery Officer actually delivers? Do they have a uniform and a bag slung over their shoulder like my postman who delivers my letters?
    I realise every large organisation has its problems which the rising technocratic elite wish to solve with AI. However, I do wish the bureaucrats, via their incompetence and irrelevance, wouldn’t make it so easy for that to happen.
    Heaven help the patients and those NHS staff who work for the benefit of such.


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