Whistle-blowing and the Law

Leigh Day & Co has sent two ‘letters before action’ on behalf of Patients First to:

  • Ealing Hospital NHS Trust
  • South London Healthcare NHS Trust

The letters (dated 29 November) detail specific instances where Ealing and South London Healthcare Trusts have been found wanting in relation to individuals who would describe themselves as whistle blowers.

In both instances the Trusts have been asked to provide a range of evidence in relation to their policies on whistle blowing.

Mostly notably, Leigh Day has asked them what steps they have taken in the last 12 months to ‘audit, review and refresh’ their approach to whistle blowing, as required by the Department of Health Guidance “Speak Up for a Healthy NHS”. That guidance makes clear that having a policy is not enough to deliver patient safety and that NHS bodies should take steps to monitor how confident staff feel about the approach of the NHS body to whistle blowing.

It is the contention of Patients First that both Ealing Hospital NHS Trust and South London Healthcare NHS Trust have failed, and are failing, to comply with their duties under the Department of Health Guidance.

Two further letters before action have also been sent to NHS London and the Care Quality Commission.

These bodies are responsible for ensuring the Trusts’ compliance with the Department of Health guidance. Leigh Day has therefore asked for details about how the whistleblowing policies have been implemented and monitored.

In all cases the letters give 14 days for compliance before commencing judicial review proceedings.

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Definitions of a whistle-blower

“a person who informs on someone engaged in an illicit activity” Source: Oxford dictionary

“a person who tells someone in authority about something illegal that is happening, especially in a government department or a company” Source: Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary

Or to Blow the whistle:

“bring an illicit activity to an end by informing on (the person responsible)” Source: Oxford dictionary