Bounty payments for whistleblowers - something which I called for in 2012 is in the news again. The Times is today reporting that several Whitehall departments have indicated they are in favour of paying whistleblowers.
The Times reports that "Advocates of US style whistleblower payments say that paying high bounties is far cheaper than doubling or trebling regulator budgets". Whistleblowers in the USA are paid for their results, usually a 2% fee for information which leads to fines.
Imagine if a nurse or doctor could be sure of protection from bullying and a six figure bounty for whistleblowing on poor care?
Could the Mid Staffs scandal have been avoided with USA style whistleblower payments?
I think so. Unfortunately, good behaviour has to be incentivised. In Mid Staffs all the financial incentives in place led to worse and worse care for patients. The fact that medical staff were motivated into "bad behaviour" by the "wrong" incentives clearly indicates that their behaviour can be altered. They are not passive participants in the NHS and each individual can make a difference.
It's not hard to imagine that medical staff who were motivated in the wrong way will equally be motivated into good behaviour by whistleblowing on their colleagues for an appropriate reward.
The cost of the Mid Staffs Inquiry and all the subsequent legal cases, not to mention the human toll of bereavement injury and loss of faith could have been avoided if the right people had stepped up to the plate and told the truth at an early stage.
The costs of the Mid Staffs Inquiry were £13,684,100. It's tempting to think this cost could have been avoided had the appropriate whistleblowing incentive payment system been in place.
James Bell is a Medical Negligence Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.
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