Inquests & Public Inquiries

NHS Whistleblowers group will not be granted core participant status – but may still be able to provide evidence to Thirlwall Inquiry

Healthcare professionals walking in hospital

Rachel Di Clemente

Chief Executive Officer

4 min read time
08 Apr 2024

A group of hundreds of consultants, doctors, midwives, nurses and other healthcare professionals will not be granted Core Participant status at an Inquiry surrounding the case of Lucy Letby.

However, NHSWB (NHS Whistleblowers) – a dedicated support group for current and former health professionals – says it is ‘greatly reassured’ that chair Lady Justice Thirlwall has confirmed she will consider evidence related to whistleblowing in the NHS as a fundamental component of the Inquiry.

NHSWB had applied to be given core participant status at the Thirlwall Inquiry, which is due to start hearing evidence later this year.

It will look at how the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust handled the Letby case, including its response to doctors who raised concerns about the threat she posed.

NHSWB, which includes many highly-experienced health specialists who have challenged situations and raised concerns over patient safety within their own Trusts, had applied to give evidence of ‘a culture detrimental to patient safety across the NHS.

Hudgell Solicitors are acting for NHSWB and have been contacted by Lady Justice Thirlwall to say that, despite not being given core participant status, the group will still be able to contribute to the evidence heard around whistleblowing.

‘Hugely important evidence’

Rachel Di Clemente, chief executive of Hudgell Solicitors said

We’re grateful to Lady Justice Thirlwall for considering our application for NHSWB to be part of this hugely important inquiry, and for her recognition that it is a group which could still assist in a very important aspect of the inquiry with regards whistleblowing in the NHS,” said

We appreciate the reasons, at this stage in proceedings, for not granting full core participant status, and are pleased the chair has stressed that core participant status is not necessary for NHSWB to contribute to the evidence considered.

NHSWB is a group which has only recently come together to represent a cross-section of other groups including nurses, midwives, consultants and doctors, to provide one powerful voice with regards to whistleblowing and NHS culture.

We will now work with all within the group to ensure we are in a position to provide what we believe will be hugely important evidence to this Inquiry.

As a legal team, we have been involved with previous Inquiries at which we have been asked to submit evidence and statements on behalf of non-core participants, and we have been able to have a significant impact in doing so.

Whistleblowers subject to ‘victimisation and persecution’

NHSWB represents a full cross-section of NHS employees, former employees and supporters, including Justice For Doctors (JFD), NMC Watch and Doctors Association UK, who collectively have over 1600 members.

The group also includes former and existing employees at the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

It says whistleblowers are commonly subject to ‘victimisation and persecution’, often losing their jobs after raising patient and staff safety concerns, as management seek to protect the reputations of their organisations.

Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Martyn Pitman, who represents the NHSWB, said the group is determined to influence change that better protects patients, staff, and those who speak out when they see things going wrong.

It is of course disappointing not to be granted full core participant status, but the chair has indicated that we will be able to provide evidence with regard to whistleblowing in the NHS, so we will work to ensure we do so in a way which reflects the experience of all in our group, at all levels of healthcare,” he said.

We believe an independent body needs to be introduced to investigate cases of whistleblowing, especially given the vast majority of employment tribunals involving whistleblowers find in favour of NHS Trusts.

We also feel new regulation of NHS managers needs to be introduced, giving NHS management a code of conduct to adhere to, as we do as healthcare professionals.

We will continue being the voice campaigning for better patient and staff safety, and of course better protection for health professionals when they do speak out.

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NHS Whistleblowers group will not be granted core participant status – but may still be able to provide evidence to Thirlwall Inquiry

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