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Analysis: 'This case has enormous implications'

Jahad Rahman, a specialist employment lawyer, analyses the implications of the case against brought by a GP whistleblower against a health board.

All GPs are required to enter a contract with the relevant health board. The definition of ‘worker’ under the Employment Rights Act 1996 includes a person providing services under a contract entered into by him/her with a local health board.

Therefore, GPs have the right to bring a whistleblowing claim against a health board or a CCGs (previously PCTs) as they are considered to be ‘workers’ and as such, they have a right not to be subjected to a detriment on the grounds of whistleblowing.

If Dr Ferguson wins her claim, then GPs, including partners will be entitled to bring whistleblowing claims against a health board if, as a result of disclosures to the board, they are subjected to a detriment by both the board’s actions and its failure to act to prevent reprisals from colleagues.

This case will have enormous implications for the GP profession as it is likely to encourage other GPs, including partners of GP practices to ‘blow the whistle’.

Furthermore, health boards and CCGs will need to ensure that they deal more openly with whistleblowing complaints; that they properly investigate concerns and take steps to prevent GPs from being subjected to reprisals from their colleagues.

Readers' comments (6)

  • And at this time of change, pressure and limited resource how are multiple claims against organisations already challenged by unrealistic cost pressures going to be beneficial to anyone? We should be setting up systems to ensure issues are appropriately investigated; CCGs can only mitigate for independent practitioners' behaviour and responses to an individual's 'whistleblowing' to a degree. Frankly the only people who are enjoying anything in the NHS currently are the politicians and the lawyers!

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  • That is not the point!
    No-one is asking CCGs to mitigate for independent practitioners' behaviour. What is being asked is that partners in general practice receive the same right to anonymity, protection and support in these situations that an employed doctor would.
    This simply does not happen at present.

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  • Hang on GP's do not have a contract with CCG's but their core contract is held with NHS England

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  • only in England. The HB in this case seems to be in Wales
    so under the PIDA who is deemed the 'employer' under the extended meaning of the act ?

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  • none

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  • If that is true, then no GP partners have any protection under the Public Interest Disclosure Act, making them the only NHS workers who are unprotected from victimisation as a result of raising concerns..
    This is an unsupportable position that significantly jeopardises patient safety and must be addressed, either by amendment to the existing act or the creation of a new one. It cannot go on that GPs risk their professional and personal safety by stepping forward to raise legitimate concerns.

    No wonder this is the first case!

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