NHSemployeesThe Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has written to every NHS trust in England to tell them not to allow so-called ‘gagging’ clauses in employees’ contracts to prevent them from raising concerns about patient care.

The statement comes in the wake of the whistleblower Gary Walker going public about how he was dismissed as chief executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust after flagging up potential conflicts between hitting targets and providing the best care for patients. Walker was said to be keen to avoid another situation like that experienced by the Mid Staffordshire Trust where up to 1,200 people died unnecessarily.

Walker said Hunt’s intervention was “a very positive move” but pointed out that the gagging orders were implemented not just by the local trust but by the East Midlands Strategic Health Authority and the Department of Health itself.

Hunt wrote: “I would ask you to pay very serious heed to the warning from Mid Staffordshire that a culture which is legalistic and defensive in responding to reasonable challenges and concerns can all too easily permit the persistence of poor and unacceptable care.”