The health secretary has pledged the use of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) to silence whistleblowers will be banished from the NHS in the hope to encourage staff to speak the truth about any injustice in the workplace.
Matt Hancock, who assured the government will “stand with whistleblowers”, said he wanted to outlaw the use of NDAs to allow healthcare workers to raise safety concerns or make complaints of bullying or harassment.
According to figures published by the National Guardian’s Office (NGO) last year, hundreds of NHS whistleblowers have suffered repercussions after speaking out. The NGO reported 365 NHS whistleblowers experienced “subtle” punishments, such as being denied career opportunities, to being unjustly fired during 2017-18. NHS doctors were among the worst affected members of staff, with a number of them being fired for raising concerns about malpractice – from bullying to faulty medical equipment – in the workplace.
“Whistleblowers perform a vital and courageous service for the NHS, and I want more people to feel they can put their heave above the parapet”.
“Settlement agreements that infringe on an individual’s right to speak out for the benefit of patients are completely inappropriate. We stand with whistleblowers. Making someone choose between the job they love and speaking the truth to keep patients safe is an injustice I am determined to end.”
In March of this year, the government announced stricter legal measures to prevent employers from using NDAs to stop workers reporting discrimination in the workplace. The changes include a legal clarification that confidentiality clauses will not stop individuals from speaking to the police regarding any criminal behaviour, or prevent details being disclosed during criminal proceedings.
The government is currently consulting on the broader use of NDAs in the UK and how to improve the regulation of confidentiality clauses. You can access the consultation here.