In 2005, Margaret Haywood, a health worker, filmed a patient suffering in filthy conditions. The clip was used in a BBC Paranoma documentary that caused a stir in the health sector at the time. In the film, Margaret intended to bring to the world’s attention some of the healthcare issues that the institution she worked for did not give importance. Nursing and Midwifery Council resorted to sacking her citing gross misconduct. The council said that the nurse did not conduct herself in public interest nor did she observe her ethical obligation to uphold patient privacy. The World Medical Association in its Declaration of Geneva affirmed the rule of confidentiality and in its International Code of Medical Ethics and promoted confidentiality as an absolute requirement: 'Doctors shall preserve absolute secrecy on all he knows about his patient because of the confidence entrusted in him'. In the UK the principle of confidentiality is a matter of professional conduct and as the GMC states 'patients have a right to expect that information about them will be held in confidence by their doctors' (GMC 2000). Action taken by Miss Margaret is termed as whistle-blowing. Whistle-blowing can be directly employed by a service provider or by a third party that provides service to the provider. The whistle blower reports concerns where there is risk of harm or actual harm to people. A report is also made where an individual or an organization feels there is possible criminal activity. An employee may decide to blow the whistle in case the employer has not discussed pressing organizational issues or used internal whistle-blowing policy to correct existing mishaps. It also employed where the employees do not feel confident that their employer will handle their concerns adequately and choose to address their issues to a regulatory body instead. Public Interest Disclosure Act of 1998 gives protection to employees who blow the whistle over issues as long as there is an element of truth. Whistle-blowing is not the same as a complaint. It refers to a scenario where a worker addresses concerns about where he works or used to work. Individuals who use services may raise complaints about particular services of an organization. This raising of service provision concerns could be through the management of an organization or through service’s complaint procedures such as complaint boxes. This is, however, not referred to whistle-blowing as long as the concerns are not made known to the public or relevant regulatory bodies by an organization insider. Every organization should have a good whistle blowing policy in place. A good procedure-based service provider provides its employees with a conducive atmosphere to report what they do not feel comfortable with within the organization. The organization goes a step further to look into its employees’ complaints, investigates and provides amicable solutions to each. An open organizational culture helps workers to be confident in raising their issues. If the procedures are easy to use, the organization can deal with problems within its functioning at an early stage. The procedures should allow workers to go out of their normally arranged management duties and accountability arrangements to report problems. It should also clarify to the staff that they have protection from PIDA in the event that they whistle-blow. Likewise, the workforce should have the information that malicious or knowingly untrue allegations reported either
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