Whistleblowing NHS worker to challenge NDA in test case for gagging orders

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Mrs Allison’s MP and former Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, added: “Sue has made a considerable personal sacrifice by putting her head above the parapet to call out poor and dangerous standards of care.

“But she reports that she’s been rewarded by having her career destroyed.”

“If whistleblowers are to be encouraged, they need some form of protection and reassurance that they will face no recriminations or professional backlash, whilst those allegedly guilty of the mistakes suffer no similar consequences or repercussions from their actions”.

Mrs Allison believes she has been blacklisted in the NHS and says she has been asked about being a whistleblower in a number of subsequent job applications she’s made in places as far away as Kingston.

She worked at the same NHS Trust as the award-winning surgeon Peter Duffy, another high-profile whistleblower who was forced out of his job after raising concerns and is now practicing on the Isle of Man.

The Trust has faced a number of whistleblowing complaints in recent years including a maternity crisis at Furness General where a number of deaths emerged due to poor care standards.

Mrs Allison’s employment lawyer Jahad Rahman said the case could have wide implications for attempts to silence not just whistleblowers, but also victims of crime or abuse.

“Hopefully this case will significantly contribute to the debate about whether or not it’s right to silence individuals raising concerns about wrongdoing and misconduct in the workplace…the outcome is likely to give them confidence to speak out,” he said.

“We need people to come forward or else we are exposing the public to danger.

“This case goes beyond the remit of whistleblowers, in fact. NDAs should never be used to cover up criminal activity at work, as we’ve seen them being employed for cases of discrimination and sexual harassment at work. Sexual assault is a criminal offence”.

The Whistleblowing charity Protect is also pushing for clearer legislation surrounding NDAs, which would allow subjects to still make protected disclosures where public safety was an issue.

Andrew Pepper-Parsons, at the charity said: “The law is clear that public interest issues such as concerns involving patient safety cannot be part of an NDA, and a whistleblower would be able raise those concerns with someone like the CQC without fear of an employer pursuing the whistleblower for breaching the NDA.  

“But the bullying or victimisation of a whistleblower, even if it shows a toxic environment in a workplace, is a grey area and may well be covered by the confidentiality agreement if it lacks a wider public interest point.”

Morecambe Bay Trust said all the concerns raised by Mrs Allison had already been fully investigated.

“As with every such investigation, opportunities for the Trust to improve its practice were identified and action was taken to address this,” said Medical Director David Walker.

“The Trust does not use ‘gagging clauses’ that prevent employees or ex-employees speaking out about patient safety and patient care.”

However Mrs Allison said the case has wrecked her career.

“To push out highly-qualified people who are really dedicated to their jobs at a time of such acute short-staffing is really bad practice on the part of NHS management,” she said. “I mean, I’ll never go back there now – I’m finished.”



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