Staff must be free to raise safety concerns, says Heart of England chief exec
One of the largest hospital trusts in England has backed Nursing Times’ campaign to make it easier for staff to raise concerns.
Dr Mark Newbold, chief executive of the Heart of England Foundation Trust, has added his support to our Speak out Safely campaign.
The former histopathologist said it was vital the message that NHS staff were free to speak up and raise concerns was repeatedly made clear.
Dr Newbold, who joined Heart of England in 2010, is the first trust chief executive to announce his support for the campaign, which calls for NHS organisations to make an explicit commitment to staff that they will not face disciplinary action for raising genuine patient safety concerns.
He said: “The way we improve this situation is by constantly reiterating the message about raising concerns and the Nursing Times campaign is really helpful in doing that and I would encourage others to support it as well. It’s really helpful publicity on a really important subject.”
Dr Newbold said he personally spoke with new staff at his trust during their induction. “My final word to them is always that you can have any number of procedures and policies, but the ultimate fail safe is the 11,000 of them,” he said.
As a result, he said told Nursing Times he received three or four concerns a month, with staff sometimes finding it easier to approach him as chief executive than their line manager.
He added: “It would be hard to deny there isn’t an issue about [NHS] staff feeling they can speak up. The only way we can tackle it is to keep repeating that everyone should be free to raise concerns, particularly where it is about the care or safety of patients. We have to keep making it clear.”
Dr Newbold said a commitment to staff and support for the Nursing Times campaign would be included on his trust’s website.
Nursing Times has drafted a statement that trusts are being encouraged to endorse and place on their websites in support of the Speak Out Safely campaign. See nursingtimes.net/SOS
The Speak Out Safely campaign also aims to obtain a commitment from the government to carry out a full review of the Public Interest Disclosure Act to ensure it gives adequate protection to NHS staff.
In addition, we are calling on the government to implement a statutory “duty of candour”, requiring NHS staff and organisations to be open about mistakes. This would make it a criminal offence for any trust or manager to prevent staff raising concerns after a serious injury to a patient or death.
In its response to the Francis report last month, the government has said it will bring in a legal duty for board members but has not yet made a decision on applying that to staff.
Sign our Speak Out Safely petition to support a transparent and open NHS. We are calling on the government to implement recommendations from the Francis report that will increase protection for staff who raise concerns about patient care.