17/07/2013 13:39 BST | Updated 16/09/2013 06:12 BST

Why Don't More People Engage in Whistleblowing?

Just under a year ago we were about to be gripped by the London Olympics and one of the unforgettable highlights was the incredible opening ceremony which had been organised by Danny Boyle and scripted by the lesser acknowledged Frank Cottrell Boyce.

Part of the ceremony was dedicated to the special place that the NHS has in British consciousness.

Though there will be many who believe that the principle of a national health system which is free to everyone at the point of need remains true, others argue that it is an institution in need of some radical reform.

And detractors of the NHS can point to the latest scandal involving serious problems including abnormally high death rates in a number of hospitals. Additionally, we discover, patients have frequently been treated appallingly by staff who in some cases, work under extreme pressure.

The fact that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced in Parliament the need to place eleven hospital trusts in special measures should indicate that care in hospital does not measure up to the high expectations we tend to place in staff.

However, whilst there appears to be systemic problems in many hospitals, those who have carried out reviews have not come across the sort of failings that occurred in Stafford Hospital.

What is always intriguing in such cases is to ask what did those working in these organisations make of what was going on?

Did they simply believe that what they witnessed was 'normal'?

Though I truly believe that the vast majority of staff who work in the NHS are absolutely dedicated to giving patients the best care possible, in an organisation of this size there are bound to be a couple who simply don't care what happens.

However, notorious individuals carrying out serial killing such as Dr Harold Shipman and child-nurse Beverley Allitt are, thankfully, extremely rare.

Rather, it seems that what is now becoming apparent is a more widespread culture of corner-cutting and general neglect; something systemic and part of a culture.

I would guess that there may have been some who felt that they should speak out but that they would not be believed.

Judging by what happened to two of the people who tried to expose what was going on at Stafford Hospital they would be right.

Nurse Helen Donnelly and campaigner Julie Bailey whose mother died from alleged neglect there suffered disdain and disbelief. In the cases of Bailey she has been subject to a campaign of continued harassment and abuse and her mother's grave has been vandalised.

But in any scandal there is always the question of why decent people allowed it to go on unchallenged.

There is always an issue of who holds most influence and power as they will tend to be believed above those seen to be merely workers or minions.

In the controversy surrounding Jimmy Savile many simply turned a blind eye because they didn't want to jeopardise their careers as he was a household name with friends in 'high places'.

There is also the case of what has befallen the likes of Edward Snowden who, like, poor Bradley Manning and the charismatic though somewhat flawed Julian Assange. As they are finding out, when you uncover the secrets of things done in the name of national security you should not be surprised at the opprobrium that is heaped on you and pursued relentlessly.

Whistleblowers, it seems, do not enjoy the hero status that would be suggested in films such as the 1974 All the President's Men which portrayed the investigative work carried out by journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward in exposing the Watergate scandal which led to the resignation of Richard 'Tricky Dicky' Nixon.

Perhaps a more instructive film is the eponymous Silkwood which was released in 1983 and starred Meryl Streep playing the role of Karen Gay Silkwood who, having raised the issue of poor safety in the nuclear plant where she worked, the Oklahoma-based Kerr-McGee Corporation facility, was diagnosed with high levels of radioactive contamination shortly before she was killed in a car crash which many believe had a sinister cause.

Sadly, it seems, most scandals, even those which involve life and death, remain hidden until it becomes impossible to continue to in the cover-up.

The majority of people prefer to pretend that there is nothing they can do and would rather not take the risk of suffering because of their whistle-blowing.

It is probably salutary to remember Edmund Burke's maxim that, 'All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.'

We need to have a society where more credit is given to those who, because of their inside knowledge of organisational wrong-doing, chose to expose the truth.

Unless this happens, the sort of scandals in the seen in the NHS, finance and banking and politics in terms of false expenses, to name but a few, will continue with monotonous regularity.