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TUC backs HCSA call for law change to protect trainee whistleblowers

Hospital doctors’ union HCSA has won unanimous backing from the Trades Union Congress today for its call for “mandatory and total” protection for doctors in training who blow the whistle on patient care.

Around 1,000 delegates at the annual event in Brighton supported the call by consultant microbiologist Dr Paul Donaldson, a member of HCSA’s executive.

Pointing to recommendations made in the 2015 Francis Report following the Mid-Staffordshire scandal, Dr Donaldson told delegates: “It seems amazing that doctors in training - popularly known as junior doctors - who blow the whistle on poor care still have no statutory protection.

“This is an absolute scandal.”

Current protection for doctors in training rests on a clause in the model contract that Health Education England (HEE) recommends hospital Trusts apply to trainees.

This attempts to close a loophole surrounding the complex “dual employer” situation facing “junior doctors” on rotation training, whose contract of employment rests with a succession of hospital Trusts while their education and assessment is overseen by HEE.

But Dr Donaldson warned: “A clause in a model contract falls far short of the career-length statutory protection that we should demand for NHS workers who speak out on matters of safety and care.

“Trainee doctors who have the courage to blow the whistle must be guaranteed the right to take organisations to an employment tribunal if as a result they are forced to leave, or experience bullying, disciplinary action or damage to their career prospects.

“We believe that an amendment to the Employment Act is the only cast-iron solution to this issue.”

Speakers from the newly formed National Education Union and the British and Irish Orthoptic Society backed the motion from the podium.