A joint investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Channel 4 News reveals that a combination of pay-offs and fear is preventing whistleblowers going public with criticisms over NHS care, the Independent reports today.
It reports thatmillions of pounds of taxpayers' money are being spent on contracts that deter doctors from speaking out about incompetence and mistakes in patient care.
The Independent says the investigation by the Bureau and Channel 4 News has discovered that at least 170 doctors in England and Wales agreed such a settlement with the trust employing them – backed up by pay-offs totalling more than £3m.
"Fifty-five of the 64 contracts supplied by the trusts to the investigation team contained gagging clauses. The agreements have to be approved by the Treasury. The bureau discovered that a further 19 NHS staff who decided to go to employment tribunals after blowing the whistle on hospital standards eventually settled before their allegations were made public.
"The widespread use of "gagging orders" against senior NHS staff who could raise patient safety concerns will intensify the doubts over the protection given to whistleblowers."
- A full report will be on Channel 4 News tonight at 7pm.