Health Secretary proposes major ban on NDAs in the NHS
The Health Secretary has said that so-called ‘gagging orders’ for whistleblowers should be banished from the NHS, in the hope that staff would thereby “put their head above the parapet”. Matt Hancock said he wanted to outlaw the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) that silence healthcare workers who raise safety concerns or make complaints of harassment or workplace bullying.
He said that “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.”
Hundreds of NHS whistleblowers have suffered repercussions after speaking out, according to figures published in 2018 by the National Guardian’s Office (NGO), the NHS whistleblowing body. The NGO reported that 356 NHS whistleblowers said they experienced a range of reactions varying from “subtle” punishments, such as being denied career opportunities, to being unjustly fired. NHS doctors were among the worst affected, many of them being dismissed for speaking out about malpractice such as bullying, unsafe staffing levels or fault medical equipment.
Hancock’s proposals appear to go further than those contained in the recent government consultation on the use of NDAs that closed on 29th April.