Sometimes it’s gloss, other times it’s spin but on other occasions it’s downright lies. That’s England’s NHS for you. A management culture so dire that it’s full of cover-ups, fiddling of waiting lists and gagging of whistleblowers.
This corrupt culture reached new lows with a statement from ULHT last week after its second attempt to gag whistleblower Gary Walker blew up so spectacularly. The Minister Jeremy Hunt asked for an explanation of why they wrote to Mr Walker in an attempt to enforce the gag and prevent him appearing on the BBC Today programme. It got even worse, if that is possible, when ULHT wrote to its own staff on Tuesday.
ULHT’s statement last week issued after the Minister’s wrath is beyond spin; it’s not devious or deceitful, it just appears a downright dishonest pack of lies. How do we know this? Because the letter that was recently sent to Mr Walker to seek to gag him has been published. This is what ULHT are reported to have said after the Minister blew his top:
“Allegations that ULHT has attempted to stifle debate about patient safety issues are incorrect. There never has been any such intention……… We can confirm that under the terms of our agreement with him, Mr Walker is able to raise any concerns about patient safety at ULHT.
To nail the point home it trumpets:
The trust has a clearly established culture of openness and transparency……”
The yesterday it proudly told its own staff
‘It was never intended to gag concerns regarding patient safety….’
The Trust then wheels out the Public Interest Disclosure Act which says that if people make statements in the public interest they cannot be sued so of course Mr Walker can speak out – he has just misunderstood what was intended; But under the act the burden is with Mr Walker to prove that it is in the Public Interest.
Lets have a shot of truth in this cocktail of denial; what was the intent? To do that you just have to look at the letter which unfortunately for ULHT is in the public domain to see what it actually said. The NHS claim this letter was ‘not an attempt to stifle debate.. Mr Walker is able to raise concerns…he has misunderstood what was intended’ The letter says:
We understand that you have either provided an interview or are proposing to provide an interview to the BBC Today programme tomorrow morning. Having seen an outline of the issues, we have advised our client that if you have provided an interview or should this interview proceed you will be in clear breach of the agreement and as a result the Trust
would be entitled to recover from you the payments made under the agreement and any costs including its legal costs.
After Mr Walkers recoded his interview with the BBC on Monday 11th February expressing his concerns about patient safety, the BBC outlined Mr Walkers allegations to the DoH the following day asking for a response. So in the full knowledge of what Mr Walker had said they threatened Mr Walker that such statements breached the agreement and his gagging clauses and that he may well be pursued by the NHS for the money back plus their legal costs.
It goes on to say that Mr Walker:
shall not repeat the allegations contained in your witness statements which were served on the Respondent during the proceedings. (Note these were about safety) You agree to take reasonable steps by asking the other witnesses to abide by the same duties of confidentiality as are agreed by you under this Agreement.
Finally, just in case Mr Walker did not understand the letter he is told:
If you have already recorded an interview [ we want] a written undertaking that you will immediately inform the Today Programme that you no longer wish to participate and that you wish to withdraw the statements that you have made.
They are caught in what appears to be an old fashioned lie. Notwithstanding that the gagging clauses in Mr Walkers agreement may be unenforceable they did intend to ‘stifle’ Mr Walker and the the safety issues he was raising.
It is so sad for the staff of ULHT, who work hard in underfunded over stretched facilities. They have leaders who would rather spend even more money on solicitors and cover-ups than spend it on patient care and worse still mislead them as well.
And to add to the sad and sorry state of affairs ULHT then claim to have a culture of openness and transparency! Well it is the NHS – they just do not use the same dictionary as the rest of us.
Perhaps they should consider the comment of Eric Hoffer ‘we lie the loudest when we lie to ourselves’.