Whistleblowing laws in NHS hospitals must change so staff can report their concerns with confidence, a union has said.
The comments from Unison come after it emerged that two administrative assistants at a scandal-hit hospital complained that they were ”pressured or bullied” to falsify data relating to cancer patients to make it seem like people were being treated in line with national guidelines.
The Care Quality Commission noted “inaccuracies” with waiting time data relating to cancer treatments and as a result a number of patients suffered “undue delays” at Colchester Hospital University Foundation Trust.
Two admin staff, both Unison members, raised concerns about the issue but were ignored by a series of managers, a union spokeswoman said.
They took their plight all the way up to the trust’s chief executive, who did not even respond to their email, she added.
After their concerns were “ignored” the pair contacted the health watchdog, the spokeswoman said.
The CQC report concluded that even though an internal investigation in 2012 identified concerns, the trust failed to investigate the allegations thoroughly.
Christina McAnea, head of health at union Unison, said: “Our members took a brave step by reporting to the CQC that they were being bullied and harassed by senior managers to falsify records relating to cancer patients.
“They raised their concerns repeatedly and in emails to senior managers, right up to the chief executive, but they were ignored.”
The union has now made a series of recommendations to change the culture in the health service, including:
- A change to the whistleblowing legislation to enable groups of staff to receive the same protection as though they were individuals.
- Commitments to implement safe staffing levels, including the introduction of a minimum nurse:patient ratio of one nurse to four patients.
- For hospitals to designate a non-executive board member responsible for patient satisfaction and staff engagement.
Ms McAnea said: “It is essential that all staff in the NHS across grades and occupations, have a voice and are listened to. There is an urgent need to reassure patients that staff are confident to raise concerns and that those concerns will be dealt with.
“NHS trust boards should have to take account of staff views and have a designated board member responsible for these issues.
“Leaving it up to individual members of staff is just not good enough - it should be made easier for unions to raise issues on behalf of groups of staff and ensure they are protected from harassment and bullying.”
She added: “The best NHS organisations have robust, effective partnership working with the trade unions at the heart of their business. That directly leads to better patient outcomes. The government should commit to ensuring the NHS achieves this universally and drops its ill-conceived reforms.”
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