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Whistleblowing in the NHS: the need for a new generation to learn the lessons
  1. Jean V McHale
  1. Law, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Jean V McHale, Law, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK; j.v.mchale{at}

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Whistleblowing in the NHS engages the fundamental right to free speech and as the paper makes clear is a means of ensuring individual patient safety. The discourse around the whistleblower is not simply about individuals being safeguarded if they blow the whistle on poor standards of patient care but that they may indeed be obliged as healthcare professionals to positively make the decision to blow the whistle to raise concerns. As noted in the paper, the NHS is an organisation in which many—though not all—individuals who work there are bound by their own professional codes of practice in addition to broader employment requirements in relation to ethical and safety issues. But having an obligation to raise concerns and actually doing so are very different things. Individuals who blow the whistle have often found that following their conscience comes with consequences. They may ultimately be vindicated, as, for example in the 1990s, Stephen Bolsin the anaesthetist who blew the whistle in relation to Bristol Royal Infirmary in the 1990s.1 But getting such vindication can in many instances be over a long and very painful period of time and be exceedingly costly in both financial and emotional terms.

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.