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MP backing in Airedale Hospital ‘gagging order’ row
7:00am Monday 11th March 2013 in Keighley
A geriatrician campaigning for more openness in the NHS is hoping her fight will be taken up in Parliament.
Dr Mary Harrington, who resigned from Airedale NHS Trust in 2010 rather than sign a ‘gagging order’, is calling on the government to introduce rules requiring trusts to seek the approval of the Department of Health before asking employees to sign compromise and confidentiality agreements.
“I am keen to change the culture of the NHS about whistle-blowing,” said Dr Harrington, who says she was asked to sign a compromise agreement after raising a number of concerns about standards of care and the safety of elderly patients at Airedale Hospital.
She believes gagging clauses work against patient safety and maintaining standards of care.
Dr Harrington says forcing trusts to seek the express consent of the Department of Health will make them think twice about imposing confidentiality agreements in the future, and the information could be analysed for patterns.
“This will provide useful data for identifying where there are problems and areas of poor practice,” she added.
Dr Harrington put her idea to her local MP, Pendle’s Andrew Stephenson, on Saturday. Mr Stephenson said: “I am supportive of what she is proposing in relation to compromise and confidentiality agreements, and have agreed to raise her idea with the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt MP. I am now in the process of setting up that meeting.”
Last month, Mr Hunt wrote to all NHS trusts, warning bosses against allowing a culture that was “legalistic and defensive” in dealing with staff who raised concerns about patient care.
Dr Harrington is also planning to highlight the issue in the British Medical Journal.
Airedale NHS Foundation Trust has consistently said it takes transparency very seriously, and says its compromise agreements do not prevent the disclosure of information that is in the public interest.