Almost half of healthcare workers questioned as part of a major survey by the Doctors Association UK said they had been effectively gagged from raising concerns.
Some 46.9 per cent of respondents said they had been told not to raise the issue on social media. A similar number, 47.6 per cent, said they had been warned about speaking to the press during the pandemic.
Medics say that stopping the flow of information – including drawing attention to safety issues – is especially egregious during such a crisis because it prevents life-saving knowledge being effectively shared.
In one Orwellian example of senior managers apparently trying to control this flow, a newsletter sent out to NHS staff listed topics they should be tweeting about. It included thanking people for hard work and retweeting the trust’s own posts – but specified medics should avoid “commenting on political issues, such as PPE”.
Dr Jenny Vaughan, law and policy lead at the Doctors’ Association UK, said: “If you have a transparent, open culture of reporting and people feel free that they can speak up about safety concerns, it saves lives”.
In a statement, she added: “Sadly we are in the biggest public health crisis in a hundred years due to a highly infectious disease where PPE is an especially important aspect to save workers lives.
“It is vital that staff are free to speak up so that we know where the gaps are to keep people safe. This survey shows worrying levels of harassment and bullying to suppress concerns.”