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GOVERNMENT plans to protect NHS whistleblowers from discrimination when applying for another job in the health service could have been done “a lot sooner,” general union GMB has said.
Under draft regulations introduced today, NHS employers will not lawfully be able to discriminate against job applicants who have previously blown the whistle on potential patient safety risks.
Any applicants who face discrimination will get legal protection and NHS employers will face tough penalties if applicants' complaints are upheld.
The proposals would also give whistle-blowers the right to complain to an employment tribunal if they have been discriminated against because it appears they have previously spoken out.
Announcing the “important measures” that will “ensure staff can raise concerns knowing they are protected by the law,” Health Minister Caroline Dinenage will admit that “for too long we have failed to protect those who are brave enough to speak out when others won't.”
But GMB national secretary for public services Rehana Azam said: “I think it could definitely have been done a lot sooner.
“The vast majority of NHS workers, they are all having to do more with a lot less. We can’t ignore the tremendous pressure to do a lot more with a lot less.”
She highlighted the devastating impact of Tory-led austerity on the NHS, which has left trusts “trying to meet their deficit [targets] and staff are desperately trying to do their best.”
Ms Azam added: “Sometimes, if mistakes are being made, it is not being necessarily the individual who is to blame because there is a corporate problem.
“There is a corporate problem, a governance problem, and it is much easier to blame individuals.”
She said the recent case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba, who was struck off earlier this year over the 2011 death of six-year-old Jack Adcock despite the impact of dangerous levels of understaffing, was a prime example.
Ms Azam warned that “whistleblowers allegedly were always protected” under previous regulations, but nonetheless “individuals have been the scapegoat.”
She also asked if there was to be a review of those who have been struck off for whistle-blowing or whether the announcement was “just more spin.”
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