Why NHS whistleblowers need protection

A medical expert has raised concerns that protection remains insufficient for NHS staff who wish to speak out about wrongdoing within the service. This could mean that the risk of another scandal, similar to that at the Mid Staffordshire hospital trust, has not been reduced.
Sir Robert Francis was responsible for leading the inquiry into hundreds of deaths at Stafford Hospital between 2005 and 2009. He has shared his view that, despite attempts to encourage whistleblowing, some NHS colleagues who speak up could still be victimised, discouraging others who may want to come forward.

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Climate of Fear

Dr Jayne Chidgey-Clark is the NHS National Guardian for protecting whistleblowers in England. She believes that there are still managers in the service who fail to protect those who speak up from victimisation and bullying. Despite this, a record number of over 25,000 whistleblowers came forward last year to raise issues around patient safety and bullying and a climate of fear that puts patients’ lives at risk.

Tristan Reuser is a senior eye surgeon at a hospital in Birmingham who became a whistleblower. He complained about a lack of nurses after he felt compelled to use non-medical colleagues to assist with an urgent case.

It is also critical to maintain high levels of training on the self-handling of medication and other safeguarding practices. There are many organisations that specialise in the administration of medical training, such as https://www.tidaltraining.co.uk/health-and-social-care-courses/safe-handling-medication-training.

NHS England admits that many staff are afraid to speak up about issues, but that it is committed to supporting employees to feel free to have their voices heard, with initiatives such as its Speaking Up Support Scheme.

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Nobody should suffer for doing the right thing

Dr Chidgey-Clark says that both the healthcare regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), and NHS England could still do more to protect individuals and seek out rogue managers, as nobody should suffer for doing the right thing. The CQC inspection regime currently examines how trusts respond to whistleblowers, but she asks for more accountability and investigation into serious issues to prevent further patient and worker harm.

Author: Niru Taylor

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