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Nurse's fate a clear lesson for would-be whistleblowers

It’s not general practice and she’s not a GP, but the decision to strike off whistleblower Margaret Haywood is a controversial one with clear implications for the rest of the medical profession.

By Steve Nowottny

It's not general practice and she's not a GP, but the decision to strike off whistleblower Margaret Haywood is a controversial one with clear implications for the rest of the medical profession.

Ms Haywood, a nurse at the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton, helped the BBC's Panorama programme with undercover filming to reveal the neglect of elderly patients.

Despite the BBC arguing there was an ‘overarching public interest' in producing the programme, the Nursing and Midwifery Council has this afternoon ruled that Ms Haywood should be struck off, after being a nurse for more than 20 years.

The BBC reports that the council ruled that Ms Haywood had ‘followed the behest of the filmmakers… rather than her obligations as a nurse.'

‘A patient should be able to trust a nurse with his/her physical condition and psycchologiical wellbeing without that confidential information ebeing disclosed to others,' the council ruled. ‘Although the conditions on the ward were dreadful, it was not necessary to breach confidentiality to seek to improve them by the method chosen.'

GP bloggers are already up in arms about the ruling. ‘Once again the authorities criticise the messenger, and ignore the message,' says the Jobbing Doctor.

NHS Blog Doctor puts it like this: ‘Are NHS whistle-blowers going to be shot? Of course not. We are a civilized country. We do not do things like that. Our whilstleblowers are, if possible, ignored… If they are not ignored they will likely be disciplined, sacked and humiliated.'

You might expect me, as a journalist, and the Jobbing Doctor and NHS Blog Doctor, as anonymous bloggers, to side with the whistleblower. But there does seem to be a wider concern among GPs and other NHS staff that dissent will not be tolerated.

What do you think? Was striking off Ms Haywood justified?

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