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EDITOR’S COMMENT

'Don’t allow your trust to ignore its nurses'

Has the organisation you work for signed up to Nursing Times’ Speak Out Safely campaign? If not, why not? Are you comfortable working for an employer that isn’t prepared to publicly commit to listening to and supporting its staff when they report things that put patient safety at risk?

It’s just over six months since we launched the campaign, which seeks to ensure that healthcare organisations encourage their staff to raise concerns, and protects them when they do so. We want raising concerns policies made explicit and we want to make it against the law to prevent someone from speaking out when they see something wrong.

But it’s surprising that of over 300 trusts and around 200 clinical commissioning groups, only about 30 have expressed interest in signing up or have actually signed up to the campaign pledge.

We’ve written to them all because we know how important it is for the staff who best know the inner workings of the organisation to reveal what is going on there.

We know that if staff feel unable to speak up when they see situations that jeopardise patients, people will continue to suffer - and lives will be put at risk

It is not overstating it to suggest that ignoring these concerns can end in tragedy. We launched this campaign after publication of the Francis inquiry because what happened at Mid Staffordshire and the terrible situations that some staff witnessed clearly happen elsewhere in the NHS. We know that if nurses feel unable to speak up when they see situations that jeopardise patients and their relatives, people will continue to suffer - and lives will be put at risk.

Mid Staffs nurse whistleblower Helene Donnelly is at last getting her voice heard. After being silenced, bullied and ignored, she is now employed as ambassador for cultural change at Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership Trust (which does support Speak Out Safely). She spoke about raising concerns at the NMC last week as it voted through revalidation of nurses (page 2).

Instead of ostracising those who whistleblow, we should celebrate them - or at the very least listen to them.

Wouldn’t it be great if one of the government’s responses to Francis could be to have a role like Ms Donnelly’s in all trusts to ensure staff can speak out when they see poor care. Nursing Times would wholeheartedly support that. Until then, it’s down to you.

You can check if your employer has signed up to the campaign at nursingtimes.net/SOS. If it hasn’t, you can encourage them to do so by downloading a letter for your chief executive. After all, no one could actually believe staff shouldn’t be able to speak out when they see poor care, could they?

Jenni Middleton, editor

jenni.middleton@emap.com. Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed

Readers' comments (5)

  • dikod1

    Very welcome but rather glib. Trust abuses are currently rife with nurse whistle blowers (like myself) increasingly silenced by spurious "confidentiality breach" disciplinary allegations that are actually about anonymising the abuse victim thus making identification of the actual abuse all but impossible. Most disturbing is the apparent propensity of NMC prosecution lawyers (as in my case) applying the same device and it being upheld as prosecutory evidence by NMC investigating committees whose panellists provenly do not read their lawyers own case material but leave decisions to "legal advisers" who similarly do not read their own prosecutors case material and who then in apparent confusion 1) fail to advise on how to complain formally, and 2) ignore the complaint when it arrives.

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  • dikod1

    My NHS trust CEO thanked me for bringing abusive seclusions to his attention directly face-to-face with my social worker colleague supporter which precipitated a trust wide "Seclusion Review" which included acknowledgement (page 7) of my single modern contribution to a service devoid of such modern practice (without realising it was me) then fired me a month later for accessing the seclusion victims case file, eventually accepted under rapid defence fire as being legitimate so changed to "looking for too long" and immediately referred to the NMC with the ludicrous general reason that my practices were "out-of-date" (they clearly dont read their own reports). The NMC, in the face of a clearly weak case and against the expected switch to my side dreamed up an additional beaut.. using my home computer to originally complain formally to the trust in writing thus identifying by description the completely calm victim, thrown into seclusion for four hours apparently to enable staff to go on breaks although the CEO refuses to give me the trust's "explanation" (quickly offered to Safeguarding and the CQC) for this action. Have the NMC become just a little over-exercised with its prosecutory function attached to a heavily promoted self-view as a national public protectorate rather than a nursing-patient protectorate or is it time to return to a little UKCC/GNC style calm and dare I say it, wisdom? The case so far has cost £1000s and £1000s and £1000s of tax payers money and is so easy to defend that I haven't bothered hiring a lawyer. It has been grinding on now for fourteen incompetent months and from the outset "practice conditions" have required three-monthly reports from current employers all of which have been "excellent" "excellent" "excellent". I'm not sure that Cameron's only consideration when he complained to the NMC was simply about the registrant being given the opportunity to voluntarily remove themselves from the register thus speeding up matters but there again I'm not a clever prosecution lawyer, "merely" a nurse trying to get on with the comparatively low-paid practice of patient-centred evidence-based quality nursing although I have to confess to a little pleasure at rubbishing the NMC lawyers efforts to date. The sword of simple truth is a fine weapon.

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  • David Dickinson | 22-Sep-2013 12:40 pm

    David, it would be helpful for ease of reading if you could, if possible, add paragraphs to your text.

    I am sure your comment is important and interesting but on a small screen such a long lump of text makes it particularly hard to read.

    Thank you.

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  • tinkerbell

    David Dickinson | 22-Sep-2013 11:16 am

    Onwards and upwards David, don't let the barstewards grind you down. It's a ploy to wear you out and grind you down. It bloody well works too if you weaken.

    They did it to me for 2 years, with their trust lawyers, meetings, investigations, where I was meant to be the 'star witness' (their terminology) for the patient abuse I had reported over many years until it came to head, too lengthy to go into here, then the managers denied all knowledge that I had ever brought any concerns to their attention. I understood it was to save their own arses, but still a bit gobsmacking to realise 'actually they never wanedt to know' and the 'let's sweep it all under the carpet and send it to room 101' mentality.

    I left in the end branded a 'trouble maker' when it was them who eventually came to me to ask what was going on following an 'anonymous' letter that was written to the trust, which wasn't me by the way. I had always been upfront and presented in person.

    Anyhow, I would do the same again but differently as I was dead naïve back in the day. Lesson learned.

    Trust solicitors couldn't organise a whatsit in a whatsit,neither could the investigating panel, nor union reps,nor social services nor uncle tom cobbly an all.

    In the end it all got thrown out as proper procedure hadn't been followed and the perpetrators were moved sideways and/or promoted and I was the meat in the sandwich.

    Gotta laugh aintcha! Keep at it mate, you will come out the other side and hopefully fully in tact & stronger without losing your mind. Protect that whilst they play their mind games. Be mentally armed and let them go through all their machinations and hopefully they will wear out before you do as you have truth on your side. Powerful medicine! They don't like it!

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  • David Dickinson | 22-Sep-2013 12:40 pm

    Sorry to hear you are embroiled in this. as Tinkerbell says it will take 2 years for the NMC to get round to hearing this... perhaps longer.

    Then if your hearing hits a rut( say: one of the witnesses refused to appear...perhaps because they know they are making up fairy tales in the first place...?Or just too bone idle to leg it into town etc). The hearing will be adjourned and scheduled for 4 months later.

    I don't see any of the hearings these days being thrown out as complete rubbish, which some of them are, actually. Instead as you say the NMC have" become just a little over-exercised with its prosecutory function attached to a heavily promoted self-view as a national public protectorate" and seem reduced to either striking people off or slapping supervision orders.

    The whole system sucks, go and do something else where you will be appreciated for your efforts.

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