Letters: Treatment of the NHS whistleblower

Barring of whistleblower nurse bodes ill for the NHS
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The Independent Online

Twenty years ago Graham Pink blew the whistle on the state of elder care in Stockport, and was subsequently sacked for "breaching confidentiality". This year, he was voted one of the Top 20 nurses in the 60 years of the NHS.

This week's decision by the Nursing and Midwifery Council to remove Margaret Haywood from the nursing register, thus destroying her career and livelihood, for a similar "breach of confidentiality" suggests that nursing has learned nothing in the past 20 years (report, 17 April).

As a Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing, I have issued a public call to General Secretary of the RCN, Dr Peter Carter, to challenge this heinous decision, which will serve only to further heighten anxieties regarding "whistleblowing" in the NHS.

Obviously I am unaware of the full details submitted to the tribunal. However, the facts seem clear. Nobody died; no one was physically injured; but a festering catalogue of neglect – which could ultimately have ended in unnecessary injury or death – was brought to public attention.

Ms Haywood has made it clear that she had a purpose in supporting the Panorama team: to help safeguard the welfare of all vulnerable people in care. This was no casual act of negligence, far less cruelty. Instead, this appears to be the actions of a conscientious objector, who felt that she had no other recourse. If she is to be so damned then the future looks bleak for us all.

Professor P J Barker RN PhD FRCN

University of Dundee

Impartiality in the Middle East

You are to be commended for taking up the cudgels in defence of Jeremy Bowen (leading article, 16 April).

The breathtaking hypocrisy of the BBC Trust in claiming Bowen's article breached the rules on impartiality because in Robert Fisk's words "readers might come away from the article thinking that the interpretation offered was the only sensible view of the war"!

What pray were BBC subscribers to make of the corporation's "impartiality" in cravenly acceding to Israel's blanket proscription on independent reporting from inside Gaza during its operations there earlier this year? Was there ever a more blatant attempt to "manage" the world's perception of what could well turn out to be a war crime?

More to the point is the relevance of bodies like the BBC Trust to adjudicate on issues of right and wrong. One could imagine a similar body taking a relative position over the rights and wrongs of the slave trade, simply because of the vested interests represented and the need to establish a balance between them. It is time western governments woke up to what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians and shed their moral equivocation.

Alan Mackie

London SW8

Jeremy Bowen was correct about Zionism's "innate instinct to push out the frontier". No Israeli government has agreed to demarcate its borders and every single Israeli government has expanded, by annexing territory, kicking out inhabitants and colonising Palestinian land to the extent of having over 500,000 settlers on occupied territory, all illegal under international law. On every occasion Israel has pulled back from territory, it has always been labelled a painful concession, in other words against their Zionist instincts.

One of the great architects of the Zionist project, Chaim Wiezmann, stated in 1937 that "we shall expand in the whole country in the course of time . . . . this is only an arrangement for the next 25-30 years." Moshe Dayan admitted that following the 1967 war, "Israel's borders, with the exception of that with Lebanon, are ideal". Netanyahu in his 1996 inauguration speech stated that "we will encourage pioneering settlement in the Land of Israel: in the Negev, Galilee, Judea and Samaria, and the Golan", a position shared by all Israeli governments since 1967.

Following this ruling, and also its decision to support the refusal to air the emergency appeal for Gaza, it is clear that it is the BBC Trust, not Bowen, which has failed in its public duty, not least to defend our public broadcaster from apologists for war crimes.

Chris Doyle

Director, Council for Arab-British Understanding London EC4

The header for the online version of Robert Fisk's article (16 April) tells us "The BBC Trust is now a mouthpiece for the Israeli lobby which abused Bowen". The article itself speaks of the "usual Israeli lobbyists".

In the January/February Bulletin of the BBC Trust's Editorial Standards Committee, there is a finding of inaccuracy regarding the word "scores", used in a report (on Radio 4 news) about the number of villages destroyed in the Palestinian Nakba of 1948. The complainant (advised by Arab Media Watch) believed that the "figure, which varies from 350-500, should have been more accurately reported".

I do not recall The Independent saying "The BBC Trust is now a mouthpiece for the Palestinian lobby", or that this lobby abused the relevant BBC journalist, or the phrase "the usual Palestinian lobbyists" in a Robert Fisk article. But maybe Mr Fisk feels that sauce for the Israeli goose is not also sauce for the Palestinian gander?

Jonathan Hoffman

Co-Vice Chair, Zionist Federation

London N12

I was horrified but not surprised to read the criticism of Jeremy Bowen by the BBC. Several years ago I attended a meeting where Bowen spoke about the Six-Day War and tried to shed light on the background of the continuing current conflict. I found it illuminating and balanced and came away with a better understanding of both sides.

However, even more illuminating was the audience. On the way out certain people were heard to say that it was the most disgusting thing they had heard and that our borough council should never have allowed him to speak; this from people who lived in the cosy suburbs of west London, not on the front line in Jerusalem.

I then realised that the truth, or a balanced argument on this issue, would always be by some supporters of Israel considered biased.

M Brown

Richmond, Surrey

Robert Fisk asserts: "Anyone who has read the history of Zionism will be aware that its aim was to dispossess the Arabs and take over Palestine". In which case, why did the Israelis leave Gaza unilaterally in 2005, only to see the land used for continued attacks against them?

Jeremy Sharman

London N20

Fewer people and a better life

David Attenborough's decision to become a patron of the Optimum Population Trust is most welcome, especially as he has announced it with such a clear exposition of the need and opportunities offered if we face this most important of all issues.

As he says, there is not a single environmental problem that will not be easier to tackle with fewer people. There are also some major environmental problems which are simply impossible to tackle unless the growth in human numbers can be checked and even reversed. But we should not see this as a negative, or unfortunate, reality; for it is really a truth that should give mankind splendid hope. Environmentalists should see this as our "Yes, we can!" moment.

Already, few people in the developed world have more than two children. So, yes, we can do it. Given half a chance, and the education everyone should have a right to, people in the developed world also choose to limit the size of their families so that they can give fewer children some kind of a chance in life. Yes, they can do it.

Imagine the British planning system in a world where we had built enough houses for everyone, and needed no more. Imagine tackling the soil erosion problems of Haiti, or the social problems of Rwanda, if each year there was a little more land for each person's share, instead of a little less.

Chris Padley


Hymn for fishing and football

Reading Paul Vallely's excellent article on the Anfield memorial service (16 April) I was reminded that 'Abide with Me' was the fishermen's anthem long before it was associated with football.

Written by Henry Francis Lyte, Vicar of All Saints, Brixham, Devon, for 23 years, it was first sung at his memorial service in 1847 at the request of local fishermen, and featured in annual services for generations of those who made their living from the sea. He had previously written a book of hymns and prayers for the use of fishermen, by whom he was greatly admired.

My grandmother attended All Saints during most of her long life (1880-1976) and the hymn meant a great deal to all those like her and my fishermen ancestors in Devon.

Nigel Harris

Kenilworth, Warwickshire

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

It seems Gordon Brown is not the only one who's not very good at apologising. The media also appear to have a problem understanding the concept. They report that Brown has apologised, yet what he said was: "I am sorry about what happened". This is not the same as: "I am sorry for what happened", which would be a proper apology, and an admission of responsibility.

Robin Petherbridge


It appears that we are all preoccupied with the phrase "I'm sorry". I have lost count of the number of times that either the media or politicians have insisted that someone or other is requested to say "I'm sorry". As my mother used to say (and happily still does) "Sorry doesn't make it right". You'll therefore forgive me if I say that it is only semantics and as such meaningless.

I'm sorry that my pension pot is worth much less than a year ago; I'm sorry that the savings I have which were intended to supplement said pension are no longer subject to a row of beans in interest; I'm sorry that my property has lost much of its value; I'm sorry that I have coronary artery disease; I'm sorry that Third Lanark is no longer playing football. Let's move on.

Robert Stewart

Wilmslow, Cheshire

What a fine example of sauce for the goose but luxurious retirement for the gander. Damian McBride gets no severance payout, for he has damaged the reputation of the political establishment. Sir Fred Goodwin gets £700,000 a year for life for he has only brought down a major bank and damaged the whole UK economy. What a sad reflection on the values of our Westminster politicians!

Quentin Hawkins


The real question is why Downing Street doesn't hire grown-ups, instead of people with all the maturity of dirty-minded schoolboys.

A C Bolger


Home Office farce

Is anyone from the Home Office going to be prosecuted for wasting police time over the Damian Green affair? What was the cost to public funds of employing the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and independent counsel on activities that resemble a P J Wodehouse story? All this and an 88p bath plug.


London N1

Beautiful Burford

As the drizzle descended from a grey sky this morning and I idly scanned your pages, it was not immediately obvious to me that Burford had much in common with Tuscany, Provence and Kefalonia (report, 17 April). Yes, it is a very pleasant place to live, but there are many other small towns with similar charms. If residents of other places are put out at this nomination, they need not worry as there will be another survey along shortly with a different conclusion.

Gordon Elliot

Burford, Oxfordshire

Party loyalty

Mike Ion, inveighing against Brown's recent smear campaigns, paints himself as a "bog-standard" Labour party member who's always wanted his party to be "decent and honourable" (letter, 16 April). Equally, he "refused to demonise the leadership for its decision to take us into the war in Iraq". Are there any blinder than those who will not see?

Michael Ayton


Flexible statistics

Your report on the Social Trends study (16 April) bears the following headline: "Britain in 2009: A nation of bullied social networkers who don't believe in global warming". The assertion in the title is based on the fact that a small proportion of schoolboys have reported bullying, 27 per cent of eight- to 11-year-olds engage in online networking (and only 15 per cent of their parents) and a majority of the population (53 per cent) are concerned about climate change. Is there any statistical data which your writer would not be able to twist around?

Piotr Pastuszko


Name calling

I was quite disgusted to read your description of Susan Boyle from Britain's Got Talent as "lovably ugly" (Pandora, 16 April). To describe any person as ugly is not only rude, but rather nasty.

John F Irwin