TRAINEE doctors who raise concerns about patient safety have been granted new legal protections by Health Education England (HEE).
Before now, HEE was exempt from any legal responsibility for whistleblowers because it is technically not an employer. As such, whistleblowing junior doctors who believe HEE has caused them detriment in some way cannot raise a claim in an employment tribunal.
But following discussions with the British Medical Association, HEE has agreed to voluntarily place in contracts with local employers a provision that protects juniors against detriment from HEE by providing direct redress for them against HEE through the courts. They added that this does not affect any rights against employers.
HEE Medical Director Professor Wendy Reid said: “HEE has always supported doctors in training to speak up if they have concerns about patient safety. Although we are not an employer of junior doctors, we recognise that we have significant influence over their careers.
“We do not believe that HEE has caused any detriment towards whistleblowing trainees; however, we wish to remove any perception that might prevent patient safety or other issues being raised.
“The contractual rights we have provided are voluntary on HEE and are a very significant increase in trainees’ rights. We feel that it is absolutely right that we make this change and remove a potential barrier to junior doctors raising legitimate concerns about the quality and safety of patient care and other matters.”
BMA junior doctor committee chair Dr Ellen McCourt said: “This is a significant win for junior doctors and patients, as it will ensure that junior doctors have full legal protection when speaking out.
“The absence of robust whistleblowing protections in the Government’s proposed contract has been a key patient safety concern for many junior doctors.
“It is vital that junior doctors are able to report concerns without feeling like they are putting their career at risk. Closing this loophole will ensure junior doctors will be able to make protected disclosures to protect patient safety with full legal protection.”