More than 12,000 NHS cases have been referred to the national whistleblowing tsar in the past 18 months.

Henrietta Hughes – National guardian for the health service.

She stated that employees had reported twice as many concerns over health and safety to her network of 800 guardians at hospital and ambulance trusts throughout England compared with last year.

About 45% of the complaints related to bullying and harassment, while about a third involved concerns over patient safety. Nurses were the group most likely to report a concern.

Dr. Hughes, a GP and NHS manager, said the rise in complaints should be seen as a greater confidence among NHS employees to speak up and challenge senior management when they encountered bad practice.

But not everybody agrees that the ‘national guardian’ has been an unqualified success.

Professor Sir Brian Jarman

The Professor, who specialises in health safety data at Imperial College London, also questioned the impact of the national guardian, adding, As far as I know, the vast majority of NHS whistleblowers are fired, gagged and blacklisted.”

He called for a body independent of the health service that whistleblowers could report to.

Minh Alexander – former whistleblower and safety campaigner.

Ms. Alexander has described the claims made by the national guardian as ‘codswallop’. She added that Dr. Hughes office had no mechanism to differentiate the serious cases from ‘low level gripes’.

She added, “Just because the numbers are increasing, does not mean that the role is effective. It’s codswallop. There has to be real accountability.”