Whistleblowing in the NHS

The issue of whistleblowing in the NHS is currently gathering media attention. This has been stimulated, in part, by the recent publication of Peter Duffy’s book ‘Whistle in the Wind’, which exposes his treatment for raising legitimate concerns about patient care while working at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.

In the July/August 2019 issue of Trends in Urology and Men’s Health, we cover the issue of whistleblowing in the NHS in three articles:

Roger Kirby – ‘Whistleblowing’

In this editorial, Roger Kirby, Editor-in-Chief for Trends in Urology and Men’s Health, discusses the inadequate protection and safeguards that currently exist to protect NHS whistleblowers.

David Nicholl – ‘Whistleblowing: what progress since the Francis Inquiry report?’

Whistleblowing is established as an important aspect of safeguarding patients, yet whistleblowers themselves have suffered as a result of their efforts to expose ‘wrongdoing’. In this paper, David Nicholl considers what progress has been made since the 2013 Francis Inquiry report.

Peter Duffy – ‘Whistling in the wind’

In this comment piece Peter Duffy, Consultant Urological Surgeon, details his personal experience of whistleblowing, including the punitive action and retaliation he received from NHS management and co-workers.

As demonstrated in these three articles, the policies and safeguards that currently exist to protect and support whistleblowers are far from adequate. In many instances it is the whistleblower themselves that end up facing face threats, recriminations and punitive action (such as salary deductions) after having raised legitimate concerns.

As a result, doctors can find themselves at an impasse: they can raise legitimate concerns and risk recrimination and punitive action; or keep quiet and potentially face regulatory censure, or be struck off, for their silence on clinical risk-taking. In this scenario there can be no winners – either the patients or the doctors themselves. Learning from mistakes is vital for progress, and what is now required is a dramatic culture shift where healthcare professionals can feel empowered to speak up when they judge patient safety to be at risk.

Do join us and also add your own thoughts about and experiences of whistleblowing in the NHS. Do you agree that it is an important component of patient safety?

Comments (11) Add yours ↓
  1. Clare Gerada MEdical Director PHP

    This is a vital area of work . So many NHS staff are caught in whistle blowing – which creates a spiral of discontent, depression, anxiety and despair. We have to change the system and this conference will help explore some of the key themes and hopefully ways to help.

    February 14, 2019 Reply
  2. Peter Duffy Consultant urological surgeon

    Really important area. Scandals like Gosport, Mid Staffs etc etc will not stop until front-line staff feel genuinely safe and protected from retaliation when they speak out. As I have learned the hard way, we are a very long way away from such an ideal and I very much hope this meeting will start to address this deficiency.

    February 28, 2019 Reply
  3. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    Do register for this meeting on the 26th March. Go to the new RSM website http://www.rsm.co.uk. See you there.

    March 5, 2019 Reply
  4. Roger Kirby Prof of Urology

    Read the report from the RSM meeting in the BMJ: https://www.bmj.com/content/364/bmj.l1482

    April 2, 2019 Reply
  5. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    Read the report of Urologist Peter Duffy’s personal experience of whistleblowing in the NHS following his outstanding presentation at the RSM symposium on whistleblowers last week.

    April 2, 2019 Reply
  6. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology


    April 2, 2019 Reply
  7. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    The use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), which can prevent would-be NHS ‘whistleblowers’ from speaking out when they suspect malpractice, could be ended, Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has indicated.
    Mr Hancock said: “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.
    Let’s see if these positive words lead to significant action

    April 24, 2019 Reply
  8. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    Listen to Peter Duffy’s recent interview about his whistleblowing experience: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0004mkl/north-west-tonight-evening-news-24042019

    April 25, 2019 Reply
  9. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    Read Peter’s Duffy’s new book available now at:


    And read this article in the Daily Mail: https://www.nwemail.co.uk/news/17795303.mail-investigation-leads-mp-calling-government-intervention/

    July 25, 2019 Reply
  10. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    A bullying culture still “persists” at Wirral University Teaching Hospital FT 18 months after a major governance scandal was exposed, a senior Parliamentarian has told health ministers.

    Birkenhead MP Frank Field, met with former health minister Stephen Hammond after he claimed to have received recent reports from staff at Arrowe Park Hospital.

    In an email to Shelley Watson, a former staff member at the trust who raised allegations of bullying in March this year, Mr Field, who is an independent MP after quitting Labour, said: “Following the recent reports of bullying that I received, including the one you submitted to me, I requested a meeting with the minister for health. That meeting took place yesterday [1 July].

    “I put to him my concerns about the culture of bullying that persists at Arrowe Park and he took these concerns very seriously. He asked one of his officials at the meeting to look closely at recent developments within the hospital, and to report back regularly on progress.”

    Mr Field confirmed the meeting had taken place when asked by HSJ but declined to comment any further on how many allegations of bullying he had received.

    August 8, 2019 Reply
    • Peter Duffy Consultant urological surgeon

      Thanks for all your support over this Roger. Yes, these issues do seem to be coming to the fore, both in terms of general bullying in the NHS and also the more specific issue of the targeting of whistle-blowers for abuse and poor treatment.
      Whistle in the Wind was published a little over a week ago and, without any kind of national publicity, actually reached as high as 58 in the Amazon best-sellers ranking, currently residing at about number 90. It clearly resonates with a large audience out there. The feedback has been uniformly positive so far and I’ve also been contacted privately by a large number of individuals who have gone through similar experiences.
      I really hope that “Trends” readers will avail themselves of the book. It is priced at best to break even and the main intention is to simply get the story out there so that readers can learn from my experience and hopefully avoid making the same mistakes.
      Thanks again.

      Peter Duffy

      August 9, 2019 Reply

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