'It’s been a fantastic week for Nursing Times Speak Out Safely campaign'
We’ve signed up about 30 new organisations and have pledges from many more that they will take it to their board and sign up soon.
The week may be drawing to a close but our efforts to create an open and transparent NHS will not. We will continue to tweet, write and email senior executives in trusts until they agree to take listening to staff who have concerns seriously.
Why isn’t every trust signed up to this? Regardless of whether you have your own raising concerns policy – many of which are buried deep with trust intranets or growing layers of dust in handbooks - why wouldn’t you stand shoulder to shoulder with other NHS trusts and say you support our aims?
Keogh proved that trusts do have problems – and if you think that it’s just those put on “special measures” that have issues, you’d be very wrong.
There are problems with bullying and intimidation – or just burying bad news – across the wider health service. Seek and you shall find them. So why is no one seeking them before it’s too late?
Stuart Poynor leads the way in showing chief executives how to do things right in this arena. While he confesses his trust - Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Partnership – hasn’t got it completely right in the past, he is doing his best to personally ensure that staff feel safe to speak out. He’s appointed the Mid Staffs nurse whistleblower Helene Donnelly to become his ambassador for cultural change. Her role actively goes out to find trouble spots and supports staff who come forward with worries about poor care. Mr Poynor then listens to their cases personally and he takes them seriously.
This takes courage. He has heard harrowing stories, things that have made him uncomfortable – but he has listened and taken action.
Most chief executives feel the same way he does. They want to run safe hospitals offering quality care. So where is their support for this campaign? I truly believe that if you want to create a safer healthcare service, you have to listen to your staff. They are best placed to know what is going wrong – and often how to fix it.
I also believe that the trust that doesn’t put caring for its staff high on the agenda doesn’t put caring for its patients high up either.
Some of the stories we have heard about the way staff have been treated is awful. Helene Donnelly herself was locked in the toilets and told not to go out to her car alone late at night, we’ve heard of senior managers covering their backs in writing but making threats face to face, we’ve heard of bullying, backbiting and dismissive behaviour. Brilliant individuals have been driven out of their jobs and sometimes illustrious careers by such action. Many have become ill and some have taken their lives. This is a serious issue that threatens more than just patients’lives, it threatens staff’s lives too.
The health service is the weaker for no longer having access to these individuals’consciences and their diligence.
Isn’t it time we put a stop to all this? Isn’t it time we just agreed that when someone has a concern, we will encourage them and support them and thank them for bringing it forward?
Isn’t it time that everyone in the NHS was able to Speak Out Safely?
Is your organisation signed up to #NTSOS and supporting its staff? Check out the list of who is supporting us here: nursingtimes.net/sos. And if they are not, then please download the letter and send it to your chief executive.
Jenni Middleton, editor
Follow me on Twitter: @nursingtimesed
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