I'm an NHS healthcare professional, a qualified radiographer for 34 years, currently studying for a PHD and I have been bullied and victimised by my employer ever since I raised concerns about patient safety over 6 years ago.
I work in the specialist area of breast cancer diagnosis, an area where there are critical shortages of radiologists and highly skilled radiographers. Until recent years, I really loved my job and worked hard both clinically and academically to be the best I could be for the patients.
However, when I raised concerns about a consultant missing cancers in 2012 and subsequently lodged a written grievance, I never anticipated how my life would change.
My Trust delayed investigating my concerns for 2 years but bullying towards me and a whistle-blowing colleague began immediately. We were subject to a smear campaign, ostracised, and maligned within our department; but we persisted, as patients were at risk. The Trust attempted to cover-up the wrongdoing in an attempt to minimise further damage as they had already been involved in a maternity scandal where a mother and several babies had died needlessly.
This is a familiar story but only a few NHS staff who end up in this position are able to share their story as many are subject to Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), sometimes known as gagging orders, which prevent them revealing details of the toxic managerial behaviour which is destroying our NHS.
After two and a half years of bullying and victimisation, I too was pressured and blackmailed into signing a non-disclosure agreement, with no legal advice on the terms or effect. It was designed to make it impossible for me to ever talk about the victimisation I had suffered for trying to protect patient safety.
I have tried to continue with my job which I love and work hard at, but the detriment towards me continues. My career and reputation have been destroyed, and I have been restricted in my hours and opportunities at work, which has caused extensive psychological and financial repercussions for myself and my family.
When I found out last year that I was blacklisted across the NHS I realised that the Trust's destruction of me, as a whistle-blower, was complete. I have no career, my reputation is destroyed, and I have been forced out of a job that I love. This is why I took my case to the Employment Tribunal.
In August 2018, I lodged a claim with the Employment Tribunal. My case was accepted and has now been fixed for a Preliminary Hearing on 2nd April to determine the validity of the NDA.
My difficulty, like all those who are found on the CrowdJustice website, is that the cost of legal representation is prohibitively high and though I have covered legal costs myself so far, I am unable to pay anything more. I have the support of a specialist firm of employment solicitors, and the offer of representation at the forthcoming hearing from a top level QC, and yet the Trust and their solicitors continue to maintain that my claim is 'vexacious' and have threatened that they will claim costs against me. My solicitors have advised that NDAs cannot be used to prevent a worker from making protected whistle-blowing disclosures about patient safety issues.
Any pledges will go directly to my solicitor to fund my legal costs to give us the best chance of revealing to the public the depths to which NHS managers will go to hide misconduct and malpractice from the public to preserve their own well-paid positions.
If I am successful at this first hearing, it will pave the way for other whistle-blowers to challenge their own agreements and speak out about the bad management practices and culture which they are intended to hide from the public.
In fact, in March 2013, Jeremy Hunt MP/Secretary of State for Health announced that settlement agreements that contain gagging clauses that prevent workers from speaking out about patient safety matters would be banned and not approved by the Department of Health/Treasury.
Why it matters
This case raises public interest issues of whether it is appropriate to silence NHS workers that speak out about patient safety/expose matters of crucial public concern such as NHS consultants’ failure to diagnose/detect cancer.
The recent experiences of Dr Chris Day, Urologist Peter Duffy and numerous others (including myself) show that there are many parts of the NHS management who believe that they are above the law and can squander substantial public funds in order to suppress the truth and destroy innocent employees with impunity.
It is obvious that this culture is dangerous both to patients and staff for what may happen to them as a consequence; patients may continue to be harmed and possibly suffer avoidable death or disability, and whistle-blowing Health Care Professionals have their careers, reputations, and futures destroyed.
Examples of the negligence of NHS authorities to investigate safety concerns as a matter of urgency have had horrific consequences; for example:
Gosport Memorial Hospital - an initial police investigation into an unexplained death occurred in 1989, nearly 20 years ago, nothing was done; the tally of 'premature deaths' (murders) stands at 456 to date.
In the case of Ian Paterson (Breast Surgeon), this surgeon continued to perform dangerous and unnecessary surgery on breast patients for 9 years after concerns were raised.
In my own Trust the senior consultant concerned was allowed to practice unchallenged for a further 2 years following the raising of my own concerns and also those of a consultant colleague; It is perhaps unsurprising to learn that this person was holding not 1 but 2 senior directors' posts at the time.
Senior managers in these Trusts, and in any other Trusts, where whistle blowers were or are being ignored, put patients at risk and are liable for the harm that they allow to happen.
Please help me fight the culture of cover-ups within our NHS to protect the rights of whistle-blowers and in turn, the safety of patients. Thank you.
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