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
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed