The National Health Service (NHS) is soon to ban gagging orders for whistleblowers according to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock following a recent employment tribunal ruling.
Mr Hancock says he is determined to end the injustice of forcing health service staff to pick between speaking out to protect patients or keeping their job.
He said: “Whistleblowers perform a vital and courageous service for the NHS and I want more people to feel they can put their head above the parapet.
“Settlement agreements that infringe on an individual’s right to speak out for the benefit of patients are completely inappropriate. Making someone choose between the job they love and speaking the truth to keep patients safe is an injustice I am determined to end.”
The statement comes following a recent employment tribunal, where radiographer Sue Allison, was successful in her argument that she was pressured into signing an NDA without legal advice after raising concerns about the standard of care in a breast screening unit ran by Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.
Mrs Allison filed a grievance against the trust claiming she was excluded and subjected to extensive bullying after whistleblowing and struggled to find a job since. However, The Trust argued the case could not be heard because the gagging order prevented her from speaking about the details at a tribunal.
In the tribunal hearing, Judge Rebecca Howard ruled that the NDA was invalid and said Mrs Allison has a “prima facie case of whistleblowing detriment” and should be allowed to press ahead with her grievance without being gagged.
Her legal team believes it sets a new precedent over the legality of these NDAs.
The NHS radiographer claims her 34-year career has been destroyed since blowing the whistle in 2012. Mrs Allison has applied for a number of posts both within and outside of the Trust and reports her whistleblowing past having been brought up in job interviews by potential employers.
Georgina Halford-Hall, from Whistleblowers UK, said: “We have repeatedly asked the NHS for details on the number of NDAs used across the health service.
“The answer we’ve received every time has been that they don’t hold this information centrally. We are now calling on Matt Hancock to uphold the promises made by the former Health Secretary to ban the use of NDAs in the NHS.”