What can the NHS learn from the Jimmy Savile Report?


The Jimmy Savile report has served as a critical wake-up call and has led to a number of lessons that the NHS can learn from in order to prevent such abuses in the future. Some key takeaways from the Jimmy Savile report for the NHS include:

  • Strengthening Safeguarding Measures: The NHS needs to prioritise the implementation of robust safeguarding policies and procedures to protect vulnerable individuals, including patients and staff, from sexual abuse. This involves creating a culture of openness and awareness, ensuring that staff are trained to identify signs of abuse, and promoting reporting mechanisms for any concerns or allegations. Our hospitals should make keeping people safe part of the fabric of their organisation.  Leaders have a key role to play in this.
  • Improved Governance and Accountability: The Jimmy Savile report highlighted serious failings within the NHS in relation to governance and accountability regarding allegations of abuse. The NHS should strive to improve its processes for vetting and monitoring individuals in positions of authority, ensuring that appropriate background checks are conducted, and establishing mechanisms for reporting concerns about staff conduct.
  • Encouraging Whistleblowing: The NHS should create a safe and supportive environment for whistleblowing, where employees feel comfortable reporting concerns about misconduct or abuse. This can be achieved through clear policies protecting whistleblowers from retaliation and ensuring that reports are thoroughly investigated. Everyone – patients, visitors and staff – should feel they can and should raise concerns when they have them.  Savile would have been stopped in his tracks had one or two complaints been escalated.
  • Learning from Past Mistakes: The Jimmy Savile scandal exposed systemic issues within the NHS, including a failure to act on previous suspicions and allegations. It is crucial for the NHS to learn from these mistakes and proactively address any concerns or allegations of abuse, rather than dismissing them or turning a blind eye. Savile may be history but the dangers people faced from him are still real and present.
  • Collaboration and Information Sharing: The NHS should foster collaboration and information sharing between different healthcare organisations to ensure that concerns about individuals’ conduct are not overlooked or hidden. This includes sharing information about past disciplinary actions, complaints, or suspicions of abuse to prevent individuals from moving between organisations without scrutiny.

By applying these lessons, the NHS can work towards creating a safer environment for patients and staff, where instances of sexual abuse are less likely to occur, and where any concerns are promptly addressed and investigated.

NHS investigations into matters relating to Jimmy Savile

Kate Lampard and I published our NHS investigations lessons learnt regarding matters relating to Savile in 2015 at a press conference in London.  It is available on the government’s website here. The report’s key message is that everyone has the right to feel safe in a hospital. Achieving this in a busy, public institution is a challenge.

All providers of NHS funded services are required to be open and transparent with families and patients when things go wrong with their healthcare. An independent investigation is carried out separately from any police, legal and Coroner’s proceedings. It is done by an independent, expert organisation, which is given access to all the information and reports about the individual patient’s care and treatment (within the usual patient confidentiality rules), and who can also request interviews with any NHS staff involved.

How NHS volunteers are affected by the Jimmy Savile report

Following our NHS investigations, David Aaronovitch in an opinion piece in The Times attacked our recommendation that NHS volunteers should be DBS checked. Too bureaucratic and too off-putting by half etc. Like many people, Aaronovitch probably assumes that volunteers fit the well-established stereotype of one or two well-meaning people manning the tea bar for a couple of hours a week.

However, in some trusts volunteering has undergone a transformation in the last three or four years. One London teaching hospital now has 1,750 active volunteers, the vast majority of whom are students aged between 16 and 21. Seventy percent of those volunteers befriend patients or provide some other much needed service to them. Put bluntly, volunteers are on the front line and up close and personal to patients. They are supervised but no one would suggest that this can be all the time.

In this particular trust, volunteers improve the experience of patients enormously. They are selected, inducted and managed with great care and attention. They are also DBS checked through an online process that is free other than for a small administrative fee. Interestingly, the trust added 250 volunteers to its numbers during the course of our work. The trust’s experience seems to be that checking on volunteers doesn’t stop them offering their services, far from it in fact.

Actions taken in response to the Jimmy Savile report

The Department of Health published an update report providing a summary of the actions taken in response to recommendations from Kate Lampard and Verita managing director, Ed Marsden’s report into the themes and lessons learnt from the NHS investigations into matters relating to Jimmy Savile. The lessons learnt report was published in February 2015 and built on the findings from 44 NHS investigations into allegations of abuse by Savile on NHS premises.

The lessons learnt report included 14 recommendations for the NHS, the Department of Health and wider government. The government accepted, in principle, 13 of the 14.

NHS trusts were asked by Monitor and the TDA to review their current practice against Kate and Ed’s recommendations and to write back with a summary of their plans and progress.

NHS trusts were asked to:

  • develop an action plan to identify where additional action is needed against these recommendations
  • provide assurance that the necessary action has been taken – or where this is in progress, the date by which it will be completed
  • report back on their proposed actions within three months.

All NHS trusts responded to Monitor and the TDA. The update from the Department of Health reported that these responses were mostly very detailed and considered, demonstrating a high level of commitment across the sector to address the issues raised.

If you would like further information about the Jimmy Savile report, the recommendations, or our senior independent review service, please book a free consultation or contact Ed Marsden on 020 7494 5670 or [email protected].


This article was originally published on 27 November 2015 and was updated on 13 July 2023


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