www.telegraph.co.ul Wednesday 23 October 2013
Whistleblower doctors ‘punished by mafia code’
Doctors are scared of speaking out when patients are put at risk because they fear ruining their careers, the head of the new hospitals regulator has said.
David Tredinnick MP said “a mafia code, an omerta” rules the medical profession. If you do anything against the status quo of the organisation you are finished. That is something that has to be broken, he said. Photo: PA
By Matthew Holehouse
7:00AM BST 23 Oct 2013
Not one senior medic raised concerns about failings of care during the Mid Staffordshire scandal, David Prior, the chairman of the Care Quality Commission, said.
MPs yesterday claimed the medical profession is ruled by a mafia code that means whistleblowers are finished by their colleagues.
One of the things I have learnt over the past six months is to be a whistleblower you’ve got to be very, very brave. I have spoken to a couple of surgeons who are alpha male types whose careers have been severely limited because they expressed concerns about what was going on in their hospitals,V Mr Prior told the Commons Health Select Committee yesterday.
The most chilling phrase, after the Francis Report into Mid Staffs, was a very distinguished clinician saying Where were the doctors?.
Where were the doctors? For years this dreadful care went on and no doctor put his head above the parapet. Why is that? In part, the answer is they are frightened. Even if you an alpha male surgeon you are frightened.
The surgeons, who he did not name, had concerns between two and four years ago and have since retired, Mr Prior said.
David Tredinnick MP said a mafia code, an omertarules the medical profession. If you do anything against the status quo of the organisation you are finished. That is something that has to be broken, he said.
Mr Prior replied: It is. We are tribal people. Clinicians have their tribes. Hospitals have their tribes. The CQC has its tribe. We tend to be defensive about our tribe, but we have to break those rules down.
Former staff at Mid Staffordshire hospital trust, where up to 1,200 patients are thought to have died unnecessarily due to poor care, claimed it was blighted by a culture of fear. One staff nurse told the Francis Inquiry she had been physically threatened.
The inspectorate relies on a continuous flow of information from doctors because it visits some hospitals just once every two years, Mr Prior said. The CQC is working on mechanisms for doctors to alert the regulator to trigger an inspection.
Charlotte Leslie MP suggested the CQC should monitor whether whistleblowers were losing out when trying to apply for new jobs in the health service.
There are victims of the practice of whistleblowing who are still out of a job who are watching people they perceive as responsible for the problems they alerted happily in a job, she said.
Care home residents could be told in writing in plain English where their home is failing under a shake-up of the inspections system, Mr Prior told MPs.
Mr Prior was appointed to the CQC in January, and has said his predecessors were totally dysfunctional and covered up failings that led to the deaths of mothers and babies in the Furness General Hospital.