Gagging clauses for NHS staff to be banned

Gagging orders which prevent NHS whistleblowers raising concerns about patient safety are to be banned- Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary has said.Gagging clauses for NHS staff to be bannedEmployees leaving their health service posts will be given a new legal right to voice their concerns about public interest issues including patient safety and death rates.

The so-called “compromise agreements” which prevent staff from discussing matters that could embarrass their employers when they move on will be outlawed from now on, Mr Hunt said.

He said the move was essential to ensure the failings seen in Mid-Staffordshire, where up to 1,200 patients died needlessly, were not repeated.

“We need a culture of openness and transparency if we are going to stop another Mid Staffs from happening. The era of gagging NHS staff from raising their real worries about patient care must come to an end,” he said.

“There has been a culture where people felt if you speak up about problems in the NHS you didn’t love the NHS. Actually it’s exactly the opposite.”

Last month Health Direct posted that NHS spent £15 million gagging whistleblowers

The figures emerged after Gary Walker, the former chief executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust, broke his silence to claim he was forced out of his job in 2010 because he put patient safety ahead of Whitehall targets.

Mr Walker said he was paid £500,000 to keep quiet when he was dismissed in 2010.

In future, no compromise agreement containing a confidentiality clause that prevents employees from speaking out about issues concerning patient safety or patient care will be approved by the Department of Health or the Treasury, Mr Hunt said.

A specific clause will be added into the agreement, stipulating that nothing in it can prevent someone from voicing such concerns.

The Health Secretary said “We are just going to ban them. All these compromise agreements have to be approved by the Department of Health and the Treasury.

“We are now saying we won’t approve any with a confidentiality clause that prevents people speaking out about patient safety or patient care.”

“We need to encourage front-line NHS employees who see problems to come forward, in the first instance to tell their own institution about them but then having the ability to go beyond that if they don’t think anything is being done about their concerns.”

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