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Legal Updates

Doctors fear blowing the whistle

14 May 2010 #Employment

A survey conducted by the BMA Scotland has found many hospital doctors are too scared to raise concerns about patient care or staff behaviour in case it harms their career. 

40% of 384 doctors questioned in the Standing up For Doctors; Speaking Out For Patients survey said they did not report issues of concern for this reason.  Some 80% were not aware of the whistle-blowing policy for employees at the NHS board under which they worked.  1 in 10 doctors who did raise concerns said they were given indications that speaking out could have a negative impact on their employment.

Almost half of concerns were over standards of care, while 37% were about the behaviour of fellow staff.

The BMA said doctors had a "duty" to speak out about worrying hospital practices, but the results showed this was not always possible or effective given the culture of many NHS organisations. 

The BMA called for a culture-change from the very top by ministers and NHS board members:

  • Sending out a clear message that they want to hear about things they can do better;
  • Doing more to publicise health boards` whistle-blowing policies;
  • Protecting the right of doctors to speak out without risking their jobs.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said that boards, in accordance with the Freedom of Speech policy which they have to follow, would not tolerate harassment or victimisation of any member of staff who raises a concern, including informal pressure.  Any example of this kind of behaviour would be treated as a serious disciplinary offence. 

Employmentbuddy has guidance notes, factsheets and policies on whistleblowing.

Clarkslegal, specialist Employment lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
For further information about this or any other Employment matter please contact Clarkslegal's employment team by email at by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.
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