BDA study day reveals how the NHS is guarding whistleblowers
More than 60 dentists, including dental core trainees, and specialists registrars, attended a hospital dental service study day held last week at the BDA.
Freedom to Speak Up
In response to concerns about the culture in the NHS, the Secretary of State for Health asked Sir Robert Francis to carry out an independent review: Freedom to Speak Up. The review recommended the creation of a national guardian for the NHS to support a network of local freedom-to-speak up guardians within all NHS trusts, to help foster a culture of openness and transparency.
Speaking to the hospital dentists, who came from a wide range of disciplines, Henrietta Hughes, the NHS National Guardian, provided an insight into the type of work undertaken by her team to review the handling of concerns raised by NHS workers, to act as a support for locally appointed guardians, and to advise organisations when they failed to follow good practice.
Dr Hughes described instances where whistleblowers’ concerns had been ignored only to be proved right some years later, during which time patients had continued to be harmed. This includes reports of recurring sewerage leaks into a dental laboratory which were ignored by managers. It was only through the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian that the root cause was finally addressed.
Dr Hughes also outlined a study in which staff working for different regulators felt that they could not speak up – emphasising the point that all organisations need to create an environment in which issues can be addressed without fear of reprisal.
The BMA’s lead on doctors’ terms and conditions in England, Peter Gordon, gave an update on developments in hospital doctors’ pay and contracts, including the current consultants’ contract negotiations.
Speaking on developments in managed clinical networks, the chair of the Essex Local Professional Network, Nick Barker, emphasised that these should be clinically led and adapted for local needs. As the Integrated Care Systems were starting to take shape in local areas, he stressed the importance of getting involved to ensure that dentists’ voice are heard at the most senior management levels.
Suk Ng, consultant in dental and maxillofacial radiology, who recently developed a new programme on Dental Cone Beam CT at King’s College, London, shared her expertise on the clinical uses of this method together with incidental findings.
As part of the study day, which contributed towards continuing professional development, there were poster competitions for the different specialities. The winners of the dental core trainee prize (top) were Alex Rovira-Wilde and Sarah McKernon from the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals, whilst the winners of the specialty registrars and the SAS prize were Julia Palmer, Andre Xavier, Emily Carter, Judith Jones and Zoe Killick of Barts Health NHS Trust.
Peter Dyer (above) chair of the BDA’s Central Committee for Hospital Dental Services, said: “It was great to see so many new faces at the BDA’s study day. The high calibre of entries in our poster competition on a wide range of audit or research was also impressive.
“The BDA backed junior doctors and dentists during the long running dispute with the NHS; as this and our training event shows, CCHDS is here to support our hospital colleagues through thick and thin, whatever the challenges and at every stage of their career.
“Our union has long highlighted the need to tackle the blame culture in NHS which has destroyed too many dedicated health professionals’ lives so it was heartening to hear how the National Guardian’s office is supporting whistle-blowers, whose concerns have been ignored locally. There is clearly more work to be done but it was encouraging to hear Dr Hughes’ willingness to engage with the BDA on behalf of the dental profession.”