The Health Secretary has said so-called "gagging clauses" within NHS severance agreements will be banned following whistleblowers being prevented from speaking out over alleged hospital failings.
Jeremy Hunt last night said the "era of gagging NHS staff from raising their real worries about patient care" should end. He said departing staff should be given new legal rights to raise issues – including patient safety, death rates and poor care – that could be in the public interest even if they have signed severance agreements.
The move follows calls for a culture of "openness and transparency" in the NHS after the Mid Staffordshire scandal in which as many as 1,200 patients are thought to have died.
"There has been a culture where people felt if you speak up about problems in the NHS you didn't love the NHS," Mr Hunt said yesterday.
In the last three years some £14.7m has reportedly been spent on almost 600 "compromise agreements" for departing NHS staff.