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Health secretary offers protection for whistleblowers

Hancock promises to end the use of non-disclosure agreements that prevent staff from speaking out

Mark Gould

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has promised to end the use of non-disclosure agreements that prevent would-be NHS whistleblowers speaking out.

Mr Hancock said he wants more people to feel they can “put their head above the parapet” and described settlement agreements that infringe on people’s rights to voice concerns as “completely inappropriate”.

“We stand with whistleblowers,” Hancock said. “Making someone choose between the job they love and speaking the truth to keep patients safe is an injustice I am determined to end.

“Settlement agreements that infringe on an individual’s right to speak out for the benefit of patients are completely inappropriate. Whistleblowers perform a vital and courageous service for the NHS and I want more people to feel they can put their head above the parapet.

“But they must have a safe, open culture to do this in order to achieve the ambitions set out in the long-term plan and make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world.”

Mr Hancock’s comments follow growing concern about the use of such agreements to silence staff across a range of sectors. It emerged last week that universities had spent nearly £90m on pay-offs with so-called gagging orders attached over the last two years.

In March the government announced toughened legal measures to prevent employers using confidentiality agreements to stop workers from reporting crimes, harassment or discrimination.

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