Gag order ban for NHS Whistleblowers following successful Employment Tribunal claim

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The Telegraph reports that gagging orders for whistleblowers will be banished from the NHS, after Rahman Lowe client, Sue Allison had her non-disclosure agreement overturned at an employment tribunal hearing on 2 April 2019.

As a result of our successful claim against Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was “determined to end” the injustice of making health service staff choose between speaking out to protect patients or keeping their job.

Whistleblowers perform a vital and courageous service for the NHS and I want more people to feel they can put their head above the parapet,” he told The Telegraph.

Settlement agreements that infringe on an individual’s right to speak out for the benefit of patients are completely inappropriate. We stand with whistleblowers. Making someone choose between the job they love and speaking the truth to keep patients safe is an injustice I am determined to end.”

His comments come after radiographer Sue Allison, 57, successfully argued that she had been pressured to sign an NDA without legal advice after raising concerns about missed cancer diagnoses and standards of care in a breast screening unit at Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust. Mrs Allison filed a grievance against the trust claiming she was ostracised and subjected to extensive bullying, after blowing the whistle in 2012 and has struggled to find a job since.

But the Trust argued the case could not be heard because the gagging order prevented her from speaking about the details at a tribunal, an argument rejected this month.

At an employment tribunal hearing in Manchester, Judge Rebecca Howard ruled that the NDA was invalid and said Mrs Allison has a “prima facie case of whistleblowing detriment” and should be allowed to press ahead with her claim without being gagged. 

We believe the case sets a new precedent over the legality of such orders.

Jahad Rahman of Rahman Lowe Solicitors, the solicitor acting for Mrs Allison, said: “As the NDA was rightly determined to be invalid, the saga of bullying, harassment and victimisation can now be heard at the future hearing.

“The case exposes the ongoing misuse of gagging orders by the NHS and it is possible that there are many other cases where gags are similarly not valid. This has been an extremely stressful experience for my client. She has had to put up with regular threats of costs and intimidation by the Trust’s lawyers for several months. The trust has fought this case tooth and nail and has spent a considerable amount of public funds on defending the claim.

“It’s a humiliating ruling for Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust and clearly a victory for common sense. For a large NHS trust to victimise staff that speak out about public safety issues and to then blacklist that employee is deeply concerning”.

To read The Telegraph article in full, please click here. For further information or to discuss a whistleblowing matter, please contact our specialist employment law solicitors on 0207 956 8699 or info@rllaw.co.uk.  Mrs Allison is crowd funding her case and if you would like to contribute to her claim and high profile campaign to stop blacklisting within the NHS, please click here.

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