Some thoughts on Edna’s Law

27 February 2015

Some thoughts on Edna’s Law

Some thoughts on Edna’s Law

by Will Powell

I have signed the petition for Edna’s Law and note with interest that there are, as I write, 1,662 signatures. Robbie’s Law only received 1,394 signatures in almost 6 years. The petition to stop the cull of badgers received an amazing 304,255 signatures. It would appear that the general public seem to be more interested in badgers and animals than they are about the lives and well-being of others’ children and elderly when being failed by the NHS.

In my view, Edna’s Law will be difficult to implement, in its present form, as it attempts to address several different, but very important issues, regarding the failure of the NHS and government to protect whistleblowers and the most vulnerable in care. Robbie’s Law was simply to place a legal Duty of Candour [honesty] on all Healthcare Professionals. What we achieved, after almost two decades of resistance, was a contractual duty of candour overseen by the severely and public criticised Care Quality Commission. There are also other proposals to introduce various new regulations and laws that will purport to protect whistleblowers and vulnerable patients in hospitals and care homes.

For example, the introduction of a ‘Fit and Proper Person’ regarding the appointment of Healthcare Professionals. Unfortunately, the Care Quality Commission will also be implementing this regulation when, according to many, they are still having to deal with challenges in the monitoring of healthcare across many hospitals. This leaves me with little confidence that this law/regulation will result in the appropriate individuals being employed by the NHS but of course only time will tell.

We will also have new criminal laws regarding wilful neglect and ill-treatment of patients, which I understand will be investigated by the police and prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service both of which have been reluctant in the past to even become involved in NHS crimes that lead to the assault, harm or death of vulnerable and elderly patients.

What the NHS needs, in my view, is:

1. A free standing legal Duty of Candour [honesty] for all Healthcare Professionals/workers from the lowest to the highest level of authority; and

2. A truly independent complaint procedure that is accountable to a Health Minister/Select Committee with the automatic right to a public hearing if there is corroborated evidence of a cover up.

If any NHS employee is found to have covered up a medical error or discriminated against a whistleblower they should be forthwith suspended pending an investigation into their misconduct. Without accountability the cover up culture within the NHS will continue and is therefore unlikely to change in the near future.

It astonishes me that the government want laws to ensure that all healthcare professionals should be legally obliged to raise patient safety issues when they are fully aware that the current laws that purport to protect them, when they do, are grossly ineffective. Having laws to compel honesty/whistle-blowing in the NHS, without first having laws to fully protect NHS staff, when they do is, in my view, a covert way of conveniently suppressing gross failures, needless harm and deaths within the NHS.

As mentioned in my previous blogs I strongly believe that whistle-blowers and NHS complainants could be protected by introducing the following regulations:

1. Appoint a Minister for Whistle-Blowers [or similar] at the Department of Health.

2. Appoint a Concern Manager [or similar] at every hospital/care home to listen to patient safety concerns of all healthcare professionals.

3. The Concern Manager, regarding serious issues and patient safety, should take a full statement of truth from the healthcare professional, which should be automatically copied to the Minister for Whistle-Blowers.

4. The Concern Manager should fully investigate and report back to the healthcare professional and copy his/her findings/recommendations to the Minister for Whistle-Blowers.

5. If the healthcare professional is satisfied then no further action would be necessary.

6. However, if the healthcare professional is dissatisfied with the Concern Manager’s investigation the matter should then be forthwith referred to the Minister of Whistle-Blowers for a full investigation.

7.  If it is established that the Concern Manager has not adequately investigated the concerns, or he/she, or anyone else for that matter, has in any way shape of form discriminated against the healthcare professional raising the concern then they should be forthwith suspended pending a discipline investigation into their misconduct.

Thank you taking the time to read my blog. Any comments would be appreciated and very welcomed, whether they are positive or otherwise.

Will Powell

NHS Adviser for