Silencing the NHS critics.

On the subject of the National Health Service, which is attracting greater media coverage as the government’s reforms near their most crucial stage, I read last night of a senior health professional who is facing disciplinary action for publicly adding his voice to the wave of criticism over the bill.

Presumably the concerns of the professional in question are, like most critics, based on fears that the planned restructure will affect the quality of treatment and care throughout the Health Service.

The action being taken against him by NHS management is based on their stance that it is “inappropriate for individuals to raise personal concerns about the government reforms” and comes just two days after David Cameron held a summit on the NHS reorganization with only the professional bodies who have offered some degree of support for the reform in attendance.

Less than two months ago, the Department of Health set up a free helpline for whistleblowers who felt it necessary to report issues of poor practice within the health service in order to help raise standards.

Of the helpline, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “This will play an important role in creating a culture where staff will be able to raise genuine concerns in good faith, without fear of reprisal.”

Perhaps “genuine concerns” can only relate to practices currently being undertaken and cannot be raised in advance of anything which is feared to be of no benefit to patients.

If that is the case then whilst the professional at the centre of the disciplinary action may be forced into silence for the meantime – along with any other professionals who fear for the future of the NHS – the whistleblowing hotlines could be rather busy if or when the reforms do get the go-ahead.

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