THE treatment of doctors who raise concerns about patient safety issues is to be examined in a review commissioned by the General Medical Council.
The regulator said the move is a response to criticism that doctors who have previously acted in the public interest by speaking out have not been appropriately supported.
Retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Anthony Hooper has been appointed to lead the review which will make recommendations on how the GMC can adapt its guidance and processes to “reflect the needs” of whistleblowers. It will look at how whistleblowers are currently treated and how they could be better supported in future.
GMC Chief Executive Niall Dickson said: “Standing up for what you believe in is important, and nowhere is that more true than in healthcare. Our guidance is quite clear about the requirement of doctors to raise concerns about poor care, but we want to make sure we are doing all we can to support those that do.”
While the review focuses solely on the GMC, Mr Dickson said he hopes it might be helpful in the wider review of NHS whistleblowing that is currently being carried out by Sir Robert Francis QC.
The GMC’s review will hear from NHS staff who have suffered as a result of raising concerns as well as employers and trade unions.
A number of media reports in recent months have highlighted the difficulties experienced by some NHS staff who have raised concerns. In May it was reported that a group of six NHS whistleblowers claimed their lives had been ruined by speaking out. They called for a judge-led inquiry into their cases, saying they were “targeted, ostracised and driven out”, despite acting in the public interest.
Sir Anthony, who chaired the Whistleblowing Commission in 2013, said: “I am only too aware of the challenges faced not only by the individuals who raise concerns, but the organisations and regulators who have to deal with them.
“This is a timely review by the GMC and I am delighted to have been asked to undertake it.”