Matt Hancock: 'NHS staff who speak out over coronavirus should not face punishment'

NHS and social care workers who speak publicly about the pressure faced from coronavirus should not fear punishment, the Health Secretary has said.

Matt Hancock yesterday said “transparency is important” after reports frontline staff had been threatened with being reported to their regulatory bodies or sent home from work for speaking to the media or posting online, whether about issues such as a lack of protective equipment or the personal impact of the crisis.

He said: “Of course people should be able to talk about the problems that there are, and indeed they do.

“I’ve seen both fantastic examples of people working hard and going public with the work they’re doing and the conditions they’re working under, and I’ve also seen some people saying they’re delighted there’s good PPE.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaking during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). Photo: PA

“And we’ve also seen people saying there’s a problem in their area. I think that’s totally normal and standard, and people should feel free to talk about what happens at work.

“I think that transparency is important, it is the sort of approach we’ve tried to take as a Government.”

Unions and the Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) previously warned NHS staff were being told by trusts not to speak publicly or face disciplinary action.

The organisation said one consultant paediatrician in Yorkshire was told to be aware their social media was being monitored.

And a joint statement from Unison, the Royal College of Midwives, GMB, Unite, TUC, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and the British Dietetic Association previously said that workers are being gagged against speaking out over concerns or face disciplinary action if they refuse to undertake activities without appropriate PPE.

DAUK President Dr Samantha Batt Rawden previously told The Guardian: “Doctors across the frontlines are extremely concerned about the lack of personal protective equipment. Many have told us they have tried to raise concerns through the proper channels but have been warned against taking these concerns further.

"At this time when we desperately need every single doctor on the frontline, some have had their careers threatened, and at least two doctors have been sent home from work. This is unacceptable. Doctors have a moral duty to make their concerns regarding Covid-19 public if these cannot be resolved locally,”

NHS England said staff continued to speak to the media about Covid-19.


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