Doctors urged to blow whistle on patient abuse

Doctors and nurses who fail to blow the whistle on substandard care or patient abuse should face being struck off the register, according to the Health Select Committee.

A "dramatic rise" in complaints against individual health professionals over the last year is revealed in the first annual reports about the General Medical and the Nursing and Midwifery Councils.

This follows a cascade of scandals involving vulnerable and elderly people in care homes and NHS hospitals. Stephen Dorrell, chairman of the committee, said there had been too little focus on quality in the last 12 months amid polarised debates about savings and NHS reforms.

He said the committee wants the regulators to show "real leadership" in changing the culture to ensure whistleblowing is seen as a professional obligation and not a choice. He said the committee will examine the perverse ways some whistleblowers face sanctions after The Independent revealed cases of health professionals suspended or sacked for raising concerns.

Mr Dorrell said: "For those doctors and nurses who knew, or ought to have known what was going on at Mid Staffs or Winterbourne House, averting their eyes is no defence and they should be in front of the regulator. This requires a change in culture, so that second best is no longer tolerated because it is incompatible with professional obligations."

The committee will urge the government to tackle the problem of doctors and nurses from Europe, who can work here without having language or clinical skills tested.

It said regulators must investigate the increase in complaints by next year and deal with safety cases more quickly. The regulators promised to act on the recommendations.