The FSU has had a glut of recent cases in which employees from a wide range of occupational backgrounds have got into trouble with their professional associations simply for expressing their entirely lawful beliefs outside the workplace. This month, however, an important blow was struck for the free speech rights of regulated professionals.
FSU member Dr Roger Watson is Academic Dean of Nursing at Southwest Medical University, China, and a longstanding critic of lockdown. For the past eight months he’s been under investigation by his professional body, the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC), on the basis that he had been “using his status as a registered nurse to promote incorrect information about COVID-19 and the nursing profession in general”.
The NMC investigation centred on a complaint from an anonymous person in relation to a co-authored article in the Daily Sceptic titled ‘Nurses Don’t Do Numbers’. The article was about a number of Covid-related issues where there is legitimate, evidence-based cause for concern, including: the efficacy and damaging effects of the lockdowns; the evidential basis for mask mandates; the reliability of Covid PCR testing; and the efficacy and safety of the Covid vaccines.
In my capacity as the FSU’s General Secretary I wrote to the NMC last November, urging that the matter be dropped. As I made clear, all the points Prof Watson made in his co-authored article were evidence-based, and a legitimate contribution to the debate about how the COVID-19 pandemic was and continues to be managed. On that basis, his contribution was clearly consistent with 9.3 of the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s code regarding the professional standards of practice and behaviour for nurses, midwives, and nursing associates: “Deal with differences of professional opinion with colleagues by discussion and informed debate.”
Just in case that point didn’t land, however, I concluded by noting that should the NMC penalise Professor Watson for exercising his lawful right to free speech and contributing to this debate on a question of public interest, “the FSU will give him every possible assistance, up to and including legal support”.