NHS staff who blow the whistle about poor patient care are to be protected by sweeping reforms that will bring an end to the cover-up culture in hospitals.
The measures will be announced in Parliament by the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in response to a review that he commissioned into the treatment of staff who speak out.
The review by Sir Robert Francis, who led the inquiry into the Mid-Staffs scandal, has been delayed by two months because he received more than 18,000 responses, many of them from doctors and nurses who were sacked for sounding the alarm.
Sir Robert is expected to warn that poor care at failing hospitals went undetected for many years because staff concerns were suppressed.
Dr David Drew, a consultant paediatrician, says he was sacked for gross misconduct because he spoke out over the death of a toddler.
He says for too long the NHS and Department of Health have done nothing to support whistleblowers.
He told Sky News: “They have not lifted a finger to help us. Patients are suffering, patients are dying.
“The staff who would like to speak up for them are being hamstrung by the people in charge of these hospitals.”
Sir Robert is expected to make a series of recommendations to ensure NHS workers can raise public interest concerns without fear of recrimination – and that appropriate action is taken as a result.
Those who mistreat whistleblowers could also be held to account.
However, Sir Robert will not re-open any previous cases under the reforms.
Julie Bailey, whose mother died at Stafford Hospital in 2007 and successfully campaigned for an inquiry into the Trust, said: “In his first inquiry, Robert Francis recommended that there would be criminal sanctions against those who try to silence whistleblowers.
“We need this Government now to put that recommendation into action.”