Tag Archives: NHS

How the NHS muzzles U.K. whistle-blowers

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Victoria Macdonald of Britain’s Channel 4 News, with the help of the nonprofit Bureau of Investigative Journalism, used FOIA requests to expose the National Health Services’ habit of using “gagging clauses” and financial settlements to silence whistle-blowers.

In a number of requests made under the Freedom of Information Act we discovered that over the past decade 170 doctors signed a settlement, or compromise, agreement with their trust. We were given 64 heavily redacted contracts to review. Of those 55 – that is nearly 90 per cent – contained gagging clauses.

Under another FOI we asked all 225 hospital trusts in England how much they had spent on settlement agreements over the past decade. Of those who responded, only 71 trusts admitted to entering into these agreements, 40 revealed they had spent a total of £3m. In one case, a doctor was paid a quarter of a million pounds. However, a further 31 trusts simply refused to tell us how much they had paid out.

While not every settlement was designed to muzzle a whistle-blower, a significant portion were, Macdonald found. The effort has created what she found was a “culture of fear,” yet there are no plans to revise the relevant laws.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, by the way, is a new not-for-profit with a £2 million ($3.2 million) grant to support long-term investigations at British newspapers.

Reports reveal problems in England’s NHS

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

England’s Care Quality Commission, a regulatory agency, has found that a quarter of the National Health Services hospital trusts fail to meet basic standards of hygiene, according to The Telegraph‘s Andrew Hough.

Some of the failures included 36 trusts not providing areas to decontaminate instruments, three trusts failing to regularly flush unused water outlets while more than a dozen trusts failed to keep clinical areas clean.

Photo by rosefirerising via Flickr
Photo by rosefirerising via Flickr

As Hough reports, the revelations come just days after a BBC investigation found that hospital trusts have given incorrect information on their performance and quality of care.


Conflicting demands on their job and being rushed or understaffed were common problems revealed by a recent survey of employees of England’s National Health System, as The Telegraph‘s Rebecca Smith reports.

The NHS, according to its Web site is “the world’s largest publicly funded health service” with more than 1.7 million employees. The survey was done by the Care Quality Commission.

The CQC reports some improvements in job satisfaction, however:

Approximately half of all staff would recommend their trust as a place to work, and just under two thirds are happy with the standard of care provided by their trust. There has also been a substantial rise in the % of staff saying that they have had training in infection control.