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Are GPs averse to blowing the whistle?

The generic definition of ‘whistleblowing’ is defined as ‘the raising of concerns by employees, past employees or members of an organisation to people with the power and inclination to correct the issue.’ On the few occasions that such behaviour has involved healthcare professionals in the past, however, it would not be too sweeping a generalisation to say that the outcome has been negative. I’m not going to delve into the details here, I’m sure a quick browse online using the terms ‘Baby P’, ‘Winterbourne View’ and ‘undercover nurse’ should provide you with a wealth of bedtime reading.

Yet, if you search Googlefor well-publicised examples of GPs who have raised concerns affecting patient care, they are hard to come by. I wonder why that is. Maybe all general practitioners are wonderfully competent and so there is no need for whistleblowing.  Earlier this year though, Pulse ran a story about a GP partner in Pembrokeshire, Wales who had experienced significant reprisal after she raised concerns. So we know that it does happen, but what I’d like to know is how GPs feel about raising concerns? At first, do no harm – but is this made less of a priority if it might do harm to oneself?

We all know about Francis QC’s plea for ‘transparency, honesty and candour’ in the National Health Service. Yet, we have also heard a number of individuals speak out about the significant alienation, retaliation and reprisal experienced after acting on their consciences. I’m currently in support of always raising concerns where one believes that patient care or safety may be compromised. There is a strong possibility though that my view is largely influenced by the fact that I have not climbed high enough in my career yet – of course, there is less far to fall.

Chantal Cox-George blogs from the perspective of a medical student interested in general practice. Use the hashtag #nextgenerationGP to join in the conversation and follow her @NextgenGP