Pressure has increased on Sir David Nicholson to resign after it emerged £15 million has been spent on gagging hundreds of whistleblowers.The public money spent on stopping NHS staff from speaking out is almost equivalent to the salaries of around 750 nurses.
The figures were revealed after a two year battle by Conservative MP Steve Barclay, who eventually obtained them after tabling a number of Parliamentary Questions.
The figures show a total of £14.7 million of taxpayers’ money was spent on almost 600 compromise agreements, most of which included gagging clauses to silence whistleblowers.
Mr Barclay said the figures show that over three years around 90 per cent of the 598 NHS compromise agreements included the silencing clauses.
The MP for North East Cambridgeshire has requested Sir David be recalled to give evidence to the Commons public accounts committee to discuss the use of gagging clauses in the health service.
He added: “It means that hundreds of potential whistleblowers may have been prevented from speaking out for fear of legal action, at a total cost to the taxpayer of almost £15 million.
“It is now clear that a whistleblower who has reported concerns internally, but has not seen improvements take place, is induced, with taxpayers’ money, to agree to sign away their rights to not take them any further.”
It begs the question: Were NHS officials genuinely in the dark about the use of gagging clauses – in which case why were executives like Sir David Nicholson not aware it was going on? – or were they actually the ones turning off the lights when the gag went on?
“It is glaringly obvious that many NHS employees feel they are being silenced by non-disclosure clauses in their contracts.”
The Department of Health and the Treasury have previously refused to publish the costs.
Mr Barclay said he raised concerns with Sir David three times asking why whistleblowers were not being excluded from confidentiality clauses, and each time was told action had been taken.
The figures, which cover three years up to 2011, have been revealed after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt last week warned against silencing dissent from within the NHS.
The figures have also dealt a further crippling blow to Sir David in light of the Mid Staffordshire scandal, where 1,200 patients died. South Staffordshire and Shrosphire Health Care, which borders Mid Staffordshire, made some of the highest severance payments.