Morecambe Bay Trust’s Policy on Whistleblowing has been “reviewed” twice since I reported the malpractice(s) I witnessed in 2005 & 2007. Despite this, there is no appreciable difference between the three documents. Whenever difficulties or failures are exposed, the Trust issues apologies and platitudes, expecting the public to be satisfied that, “We are reviewing our policies.”
In fact there was very little wrong with the existing Policy had anyone involved troubled themselves to adhere to it. As a result, I am strongly of the opinion that such policies are written solely to fulfil external directives, then quickly consigned to a drawer, to be dusted off and proudly displayed whenever Inspectors require to see them. I quote from the Policy as it was in 2008.
“If you raise a genuine concern about this policy, you will not be at risk of losing your job or suffering any form of retribution as a result.”
I was eventually obliged to resign my post on principle that on both occasions my concerns had not been investigated at all. I expect that the Trust would here maintain that I was NOT at risk of dismissal had I chosen to return to work and remain silent about management failures to prioritise patient safety. During my ordeal, I was subjected to several detriments and retributions.
• My immediate Manager ignored and refused to speak to me.
• I was presented with competency hurdles as if there was doubt concerning my abilities.
• Several trivial, wholly irrelevant and unsubstantiated allegations about my own conduct were made in statements by other staff members (who were in any case indirectly implicated in my original concerns).
• I was threatened with dismissal if I did not return to work on the same ward that had already twice caused me to be ill.
• Insinuations were made concerning my mental health, even after the Trust had formally acknowledged that they had caused me to suffer a stress/anxiety injury.
• I was ‘persuaded’ to undergo a course of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy with a Trust Counsellor, (this despite the Trust Occupational Health Physician’s assertion that, in his opinion, my condition was “in status quo” pending resolution of my original concerns). The full transcript of these “Confidential” sessions was subsequently presented to Employment Tribunal as “evidence” (of what was never made clear).
“We will not tolerate the harassment or victimisation of anyone raising a genuine concern. However, we recognise that you may, nonetheless, want to raise a concern in confidence under this policy. If you ask us to protect your identity by keeping your confidence, we will not disclose it without your consent.”
• Within days of raising my second major concern, my confidentiality had been breached by Matron. This breach brought about my illness and was later formally acknowledged by a Trust Grievance Hearing.
“We will not tolerate harassment or victimisation and will take action to protect you when you raise a concern in good faith.”
• The Trust has recently admitted that much more ought to have been done to support me.
“Once you have told us of your concern, we will look into it to assess what action should be taken.”
• Grievance Hearings admitted that no investigations into either of my original concerns were ever begun, despite several letters written to me titled “Re: Ongoing Investigation”.
Indeed the only investigations made were into me, my mental health, my sickness record, my character, my conduct.
• The Trust would later insist to local & national press that the investigations of my Formal Grievances were investigations into those concerns. This is NOT the case. Both Grievance Investigations were confined to the breaches, including breaches of the Whistleblowing Policy, committed by the Trust itself. The original concerns were not looked into, not even after the Trust had been obliged to formally admit that it had failed to investigate.
“Within 21 days of you having raised a concern, we will write to you summarising your concern and setting out how we propose to handle it or if not, why not.”
• In both of my Formal Grievance Hearings, the Trust was forced to admit that no written acknowledgement had been provided.
“…we will give you as much feedback as we possibly can…”
• In both of my Formal Grievance Hearings, the Trust was forced to admit that no written feedback had been provided.
“OUR ASSURANCES TO YOU”
• In view of the breach of each and every one of those assurances, on two separate occasions, there can be little choice but to conclude that the Policy is, in practice certainly, insincere. It is interesting to note that the two subsequent policy reviews, (both carried out by a manager who was put in overall charge of my case, who personally threatened me with dismissal and chaired my first Grievance Hearing) have not materially improved the Policy or indeed altered it very much at all, save to change a few of the words used. No emphasis has been placed upon requirement of strict observance of the Policy itself. None of the versions contain mention of disciplinary action to be taken against those who might harass or victimise the whistleblower.
In the absence of the goodwill required from management to actually apply the Policy’s intentions, I believe that future whistleblowers will continue to find themselves standing alone against a powerful authority which has shown itself to be quite unable to countenance criticism.