Hugh Wilkins

NHS ‘Whistleblower'
Advocate for a Fresh Approach to Speaking Up

Hugh is a clinical scientist whose experiences have led him to study the phenomenon of retaliation by organisations against loyal staff who have raised patient safety concerns.  A previously successful and unblemised 37-year career notwithstanding, he was sacked by hospital managers after telling them about poor practice endangering patients and non-compliance with legal obligations.  As well as providing evidence of problems he identified low cost solutions to address these problems.  He was simply doing his job, in speaking up through appropriate channels and trying to facilitate healthcare improvements, in areas where he is a subject matter expert and was the trust lead.

An employment tribunal subsequently confirmed that he had been unfairly dismissed, and that his concerns constituted protected disclosures under legislation intended to protect workers who raise concerns in the public interest.  The validity of his concerns was also corroborated by CQC and external review.  Nevertheless he lost his career and has since met many others who have had similar experiences.

Hugh believes it is very important that genuine whistleblower voices are properly heard, in order for there to be true insight and learning from their stories.  He is aware of prevailing polarised views which tend to divide NHS leaders from the whistleblowing community and believes that constructive dialogue between them is crucial for there to be real culture change in this vexed area.  He is keen to do what he can to promote empathy and understanding of different viewpoints, to help foster a climate of truth, justice and reconciliation in which it becomes normal practice and effective for NHS staff to speak up without fear of reprisals.