As most of us know improvement in any individual or business is usually achieved by criticism.
Parental criticism is our first experience, followed by teachers and finally, these days, university or college lecturers before anyone reaches the ability to provide for themselves by working.
In the workplace we also receive criticism. In my earlier career it was normally done gently with someone quietly saying where you could improve, but now it's done through formal 'assessments' which can destroy a person's confidence (as any criticism can), if not used objectively and positively.
I remember a long time ago, when assessments were introduced, listening to two older colleagues discussing a certain member of staff. In my opinion he was an efficient and effective team worker and always most courteous to all. A quiet man who worked hard. But one of these colleagues of mine (let's call him A) had a personal gripe with the employee (although I did not know that at the time) and voiced he was so delighted he would be involved with his yearly assessment, due within months. "I'll bring him down to earth," or some such words were used. I had a problem there because I respected the quiet man. After a couple of days pondering I decided to let him know what had been said by his 'executioner' who, after all, hadn't said it privately but over coffee prior to a regular meeting.
The quiet man put his resignation forward within a couple of weeks and moved onto bigger and better things. Was I a whistleblower? I certainly wouldn't have said so because the remark was in public and there was nothing I knew of to substantiate it. He was a valued member of my team. If you're interest in why A wanted to downgrade the quiet man, it was because his girlfriend used to go out with him. Yes, that's how it worked.
That's a long entry to the point of this post and I apologise if it's boring. But did you know University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust have spent £6 million on suspending a heart consultant who blew the whistle on high death rates?
Dr Raj Mattu last worked in 2002 after warning bosses that fatalities among heart patients in Coventry were too high. What did they do? Suspended him although, despite being found innocent of bullying staff members at Walgrave Hospital (after he had criticised the high death rates), he was not allowed back to work.
Some of you will say 'this is the English NHS' which is true. But the Scottish NHS doesn't come out well in a recent survey by the BMA. A study found that 40% of the 384 doctors questioned did not report issues of concern.
"Doctors tell us that they fear their careers can be affected by speaking out," said Dr Charles Saunders, chairman of the BMS's Scottish Consultants Committee.
It is never easy to complain about a colleague, but when life and death are concerned it must be made easier.
Knowing Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Health Secretary, she will look into the facts of the BMA survey with some urgency. Such a shame that England doesn't have someone who can resolves the issues of Dr Mattu quickly. Maybe it will take another 8 years and slightly more than another £6 million for them to see sense.