Nursing staff are still reluctant to raise concerns about the quality of care a year after the publication of the Francis report into Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, a nurse told MPs last week.
The Commons’ health select committee heard that “very little” had changed for frontline staff, despite the seminal report calling for a new culture where staff were encouraged and supported to speak out.
“There is a shift beginning. But when it really filters down to the frontline staff, then there is very little change,” said Helene Donnelly, one of the nurses who blew the whistle on poor care at Mid Staffordshire.
Ms Donnelly, now a nurse practitioner at Staffordshire and Stoke Partnership Trust, has pioneered the role of ambassador for cultural change at her new organisation.
“There is greater awareness now in terms of raising concerns and perhaps staff understanding their responsibility to do so. But understanding that and actually doing it are two very different things, and that’s the bridge we need to make,” she told the committee during a hearing on raising concerns in the NHS.
She maintained that her ambassador role, which has sparked interest across the NHS, was one of the few measures currently making a difference to frontline staff.
“We nip things in the bid rather than waiting for things to escalate”
“I am visible and tangible, and I actually go out and seek issues and concerns. I don’t just wait for people to come to me,” said Ms Donnelly. “We nip things in the bud rather than waiting for things to escalate and become a massive problem.”
Since she was appointed nearly a year ago, at least 87 staff had approached her to “raise concerns of varying degrees”, compared to the two or three calls received by the trust’s whistleblowing helpline previous 12 months.
Ms Donnelly also said she was being contacted by NHS staff from around the UK, because “there is no role like mine in their organisation and they don’t know who to go to”.
“It’s one role that could be implemented in all trusts with a relatively standardised format,” she told the committee. A network of cultural ambassadors could then report back to the Care Quality Commission on common issues and trends, she suggested.