Call to protect NHS whistle-blowers after sacking of radiology manager

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The Independent Online

A parliamentary inquiry is to be held into the treatment of NHS whistleblowers amid growing evidence of cover-ups which can destroy careers, waste millions of taxpayer pounds and endanger patients by creating a culture of fear among health workers.

The Coalition Government faces a swell of anger among health professionals who are demanding better protection for staff who speak out about substandard patient care and malpractice. Stephen Dorrell, the chairman of the Commons Health Select Committee, last night promised to hold an inquiry into the treatment of NHS whistle-blowers after outrage over the latest case to emerge.

An independent inquiry found that Sharmila Chowdhury, 52, a radiology manager at a London district hospital, was unfairly sacked after alleging that doctor colleagues were wrongly claiming thousands of pounds of public money, which the doctors and trust deny.

Ms Chowdhury, a radiographer, was marched off the premises following an unfounded allegation of fraud made against her by a junior whom she had reported for breaching patient-safety procedures. Ms Chowdhury's employer, Ealing Hospital NHS Trust, has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds getting rid of her, leaving her depressed, unemployed and broke.

After an employment tribunal judge found in her favour, the trust has decided to make her redundant. Her "special severance" must be approved by the Health and Treasury departments at a time when the NHS is slashing services in order to save £20bn. She is expected to lose her home because of her inability to meet mortgage payments.

Mr Dorrell told i: "The committee will look into whistle-blowers. Every doctor and nurse has an obligation to act if they know there is a problem and those who do nothing should be questioned by their regulator."