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NUJ defends whistleblower nurse

16 April 2009

A nurse has been struck off the register today for undercover filming the mistreatment of the elderly at a Brighton hospital. The NUJ said the whistleblower should be applauded, not sacked.

Margaret Haywood, a nurse of 20 years experience, helped make a BBC Panorama programme in 2005 that exposed the shocking and filthy conditions in which sick and confused old people in the Royal Sussex Hospital were left to die.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council said she had breached patient confidentiality, but the NUJ said she had performed a great public service.

The NUJ Code of Conduct says that surreptitious means of gaining information are permissible in the public interest and the union said that the same should apply to whistleblowers.

The 1998 Public Interest Disclosure Act protects employees who raise concerns about their workplaces, but they must follow internal procedures rather than go public. Tthe NUJ has warned that this often leads to internal cover-ups.

Tim Gopsill, the NUJ official who deals with professional ethics, said:

"Sometimes the only way to get anything done is to go to the media. No-one could possibly argue that this story was not in the public interest."

The union has supported public service whistleblowers in the past, notably Karen Reissmann, a nurse and union rep who was sacked in 2007 for going to the press with her worries about the state of the mental health services in Manchester.

Tags: , broadcasting, ethics, margaret haywood, brighton, whistleblowers, code of conduct, panorama, investigative journalism