Concerns at a Care Home – Whistleblowing
Dr X works as a GP Safeguarding Lead at a care home and contacted MDS to obtain advice following her concerns about how some residents are being treated. The raised concerns arose from the following: cancelling an ambulance for a suspected fracture preventing the resident from receiving emergency medical care; leaving an elderly resident outside in the sun without sun protection which led to treatment for blistered and weeping burns; and witnessing patient’s being force-fed and pushed around. This encouraged Dr X to report her concerns to NHSE, who provided support to the care home over a 6-week period. However, Dr X still feared the residents were not being treated properly (e.g. admissions for fractures, witnessed and unwitnessed falls, along with inconsistent accounts from carers to explain the happenings), and Dr X worried medication was going missing (e.g. repeat prescriptions requested in a short space of time).
MDS ADVICE & OUTCOME
MDS advised Dr X that approaching the police was not the most appropriate first step. Instead, MDS guided Dr X to contact and report the matter to the CQC Safeguarding Lead, and advised that if the care home belonged to the local authority, then she should contact the Safeguarding Lead at the local authority. In addition, Dr X should contact her local LNC. The local LNC can provide support, and further advice on steps/action to be taken; which may include the possibility of a police referral from a relevant organisation/authority, if appropriate. MDS advised Dr X to collate a full factual account of all of her concerns relating to the care home, with any evidence which may be of assistance if she is asked for more information.
Dr X contacted the CQC to raise her concerns, who investigated the matter.
Any worker can raise concerns about a current or former employer, or in certain circumstances somewhere they have or had a contractual arrangement to work or provide services. The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 protects workers that disclose information about malpractice at their workplace, or former workplace, provided certain conditions are met. These conditions concern the nature of the information disclosed and the person to whom it is disclosed.
Under the GMC’s Good Medical Practice, doctors have a duty to act when they believe patients’ safety is at risk, or that patients’ care or dignity are being compromised. This concern must relate to one of the four key functions: registration and medical licensing (including revalidation), medical education, standards of medical professionalism and fitness to practise. As the GMC is a Prescribed Person under the Public Interests Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) Order 2014, any worker who makes whistleblowing disclosure which is relevant to their statutory functions will receive legal protection provided they hold a reasonable belief that the information disclosed is true.