A new route has opened up for journalists keen to sniff out stories about what is going on in the nation's hospitals.

A High Court judge has ruled that details of employment tribunal claims filed by disgruntled employees must be opened up to public scrutiny.

Up to now, only the barest details - the names of the parties and the type of claim, such as unfair dismissal - have been available on the public record.

Now Mr Justice Jackson has caused consternation at the Department of Trade and Industry, which oversees employment tribunals, by ruling that anyone who asks must be allowed to see the particulars of a claim.

The case was brought by whistleblowers' charity Public Concern at Work, which wanted to monitor how the Public Interest Disclosure Act was working, but was foiled because the only information it could get on claims was the names of the parties and the fact that a claim had been brought under the act.

Some 100 claims have been filed since the act came into force last July.

It gives tribunals power to freeze a whistleblower's dismissal and to award unlimited compensation for victimisation.

But Public Concern at Work, which promoted the act and helped a range of organisations, including the NHS, set up whistleblowers' policies, has been hampered in advising employers what to avoid through lack of information about claims which have been filed.

The judge pointed out that the Employment Tribunals Act lays down that particulars of claims should be open to public inspection. The 'scant in the extreme' details the tribunal service is willing to give were not enough.'As a matter of public policy, litigation should be conducted under public gaze and scrutiny, ' he said.

The details of alleged victimisation will inevitably expose whatever concern it was that prompted the whistleblower to blow the whistle. Even more reason, then, for trusts to make sure their codes on whistleblowers are watertight. Public Concern at Work has the names of the parties in the first 50 cases. Two are against NHS trusts.

The central office for employment tribunals is likely to appeal, but its chances don't look good. After all, the act says the public has a right to know, and details of claims filed in the civil courts are freely available. Why should tribunals be different?