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More doctors report being 'gagged' on PPE shortages

MORE doctors have reported being gagged from speaking out against shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), despite government promises to end the silencing of NHS whistleblowers.

A dossier of evidence collated by the Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK), a medic-led campaign group, revealed on Tuesday widespread warnings to NHS staff not to speak to journalists.

It included at least two cases where medics were sent home for raising concerns over the lack of PPE. 

In other cases, doctors reported being threatened with disciplinary action, hauled into meetings and told that their social-media profiles were being “monitored.” 

Whistleblowers UK chief executive Georgina Halford-Hall told the Morning Star yesterday that it had spoken to a senior clinician who was considering resigning over fears of retaliation for speaking out.

The unnamed worker also feared that the “inconsistent and unclear advice” being given by their NHS trust was endangering staff, patients and the wider population, she said.

Although Ms Halford-Hall noted that it was “not unusual” to hear such concerns from medical staff, she said that to hear them from a very senior practitioner was.

DAUK said that it had received examples from across the country, including the East of England, Yorkshire, Essex and Lincolnshire.

It comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock made promises last year to end the use of non-disclosure agreements for whistleblowers in the NHS and to implement measures to protect such workers. 

However Ms Halford-Hall said that the government’s measures had been “absolutely ineffective.”

“We see the whistleblowers themselves are being caught between a rock and a hard place,” she said.

“They have a duty of candour to speak up but there is absolutely no protection for them.

“What we need are politicians who can finally get a grip on this.”

Responding to the reports, general union GMB said that the “dangerous culture of gagging clauses” in the NHS is “now intensifying.”

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Labour calls on ministers to abandon attempts to gag staff and instead work closely with trade unions to ensure staff get the PPE that is so crucial to keeping them and patients safe.”

An NHS spokeswoman said: “Once a major incident occurs it is vital that the public receive fast, authoritative, open, clear and consistent information from their NHS, which is why, in line with long-standing protocols, official communications are therefore always coordinated nationally.” 

To report a concern in your workplace, please contact Whistleblowers UK at www.wbuk.org

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