I, too, welcome the Secretary of State’s statement and the proposals in it. As he says, these 450—possibly even 650— deaths were not accidental, but deliberate.
I welcomed the Secretary of State’s attendance at our event yesterday, when we discussed the need for a just and learning culture in the NHS. Obviously, he heard the stories that were related during the event: stories of patients who had lost their lives, and families who have ended up spending their entire lives fighting for justice or change, so they have suffered over and above their bereavement. Staff were obviously not listened to. One witness compared a whistleblower with someone reporting to the police, or a state witness, and pointed out how shocked we would be if the police tried to shut that case up. Whistleblowers should be welcomed as people giving evidence against wrongdoing or failure.
I particularly welcomed the Secretary of State’s comment about reform of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, which I think needs to be replaced. I think we need legislation that gives definite protection to people who come forward. As one who has been a clinician for more than 30 years, I can tell the Secretary of State that the long trail of clinicians who have reported concerns and then had their careers ended lies there like a threat to every whistleblower who thinks of speaking up.
If patient safety and the ability of people to speak up in safety are not enshrined in the NHS, we are all under threat. I am sure that not just Jonathan Ashworth but Members in all parts of the House would work with the Secretary of State to reform the legislation here, and inspire the culture change that is needed in the NHS itself. I certainly would.