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'People are starting to value whistleblowers'


The new breakfast programme from ITV, Good Morning Britain, led last Wednesday with a survey on nurse staffing levels, which it conducted in partnership with Nursing Times. The fact that the issue had such prominence demonstrates just how important it is to the public.

At Nursing Times, we’re grateful to the programme for showing that despite the fingers pointed at them over recent scandals, nurses are still doing a great job - or trying to - and often in challenging circumstances. Nadine Weeks, a patient’s relative who appeared on the show with me, empathised with nurses who had treated her mother, despite the fact that care was sometimes non-existent.

This week, we’re publishing the results of the Good Morning Britain and OnePoll survey on the public’s perception of nurses (page 3) - and they echo the feelings of Ms Weeks. Although 54% of survey respondents had carried out nursing duties while visiting a relative or friend in hospital because the nurses weren’t able to, they were overwhelmingly supportive of nurses. In fact, 72% supported nurses being paid more than bankers.

But these surveys raise some serious issues about staffing levels, and those are still a major reason behind many staff concerns.

Last week I attended the Speaking Out Summit in London where GP, comedian and journalist - and supporter of whistleblowers - Phil Hammond said whistleblowing is still considered to be a perjorative term, and most people are dismissive of whistleblowers. He said healthcare culture needs to recognise those who raise concerns as role models who have stopped patient harm in its tracks.

Former NHS trust chief executive and whistleblower Gary Walker echoed this - he said whistleblowers should be treated as an asset that could save lives and money. Mr Walker pointed to Helene Donnelly’s recent receipt of an OBE as evidence that whistleblowers are now appreciated. I’d agree that the tide is turning and people are now celebrating whistleblowers and recognising their value.

Further proof came last week, as Nursing Times’ Speak Out Safely campaign was named Editorial Campaign of the Year at the British Media Awards. The judges described it as “an effective campaign that both addressed a core issue for its audience and had wider implications outside the industry it covers”, proving just how vital it is in every workplace to support those who raise concerns. But we’re focused first and foremost on healthcare - so NHS organisations, private providers, universities and any other organisations involved in healthcare provision that aren’t yet signed up to Speak Out Safely - do it now. Go to to find out how.

Jenni Middleton, editor Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed


Readers' comments (28)

  • Are these people feeding their kids and paying their mortgage though for blowing the whistle?? Are they supporting them through one of if not the most traumatic experiences in their lives?
    I discovered this week that even my college mentor has been bullied by my manager for saying the same thing as myself. Not blowing a whistle, more speaking a clinical opinion. Same aggressive, intimidating reaction, she was shaking whilst she was telling me and she doesn't have to work under him every day. So while it might be very noble to be saying this and that must be done should be done blah blah, living the cost of that on an everyday level not protected by distance or a computer screen is a tad different.

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  • ...and said manager is commissioned to one of the signees to the SOS list!!

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  • Tinkerbell

    whistleblower, let's find a new name for it please. Whistleblower in management speak equates to 'troublemaker' 'loose canon' 'problem'. Until we can get managers who aren't afraid to listen to staff concerns and a new image for those who raise concerns without this outdated tag I don't see much changing. The management mind set and culture must change before anything else changes and they are still stuck in the frame of reference to the whistleblower being all of the above as the example of the above posters.

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  • the guards on trains are experienced whistleblowers. if they get it wrong peoples' lives are put at risk.

    once travelling on the ICE in Germany there was a very happy one who must have just, or been just about to, get married as he managed to play the first few bars of the wedding march on his! His message was as clear as a whilstle!

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  • I think with the current nursing shortage around the UK, most Managers are to busy to investigate problems, they are just hole filling, plugging the gaps. Our Director has 6000 people to look after. One Man doing that job is nuts!!
    No, I think we need to address the culture first. Why are people whistleblowing? What went wrong to make them raise concerns? I think once you look at that and have a team to investigate genuine concerns, then and only then will things change!!

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  • Charlotte Peters Rock

    We are not supposed to be jellyfish, but real human beings, with a backbone.

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  • Tinkerbell

    there hasn't always been a nursing shortage and still whistleblowers have mostly always been persecuted because they are a threat to management who try to cover up their failings. Managers have infested the NHS and instead of helping the front line have made our job more difficult. What kind of management is that that ends up destroying the SERVICE, towing whatever party political line there is at the time and not leading by example but expecting the front line to do the impossible because of their failings. Oh yes it's a culture alright of lies and deceit. And it's time it ended!

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  • tinkerbell | 18-May-2014 6:59 pm

    very strange behaviour as it goes against all of the principles of modern management and leadership but then maybe they have not received adequate formal training. 'general management' applied to healthcare has proved over and over again to be a failure and as you say it is time it ended. As clinicians focus on patient care so managers focus on administration and management but the two should be working together in the interests of patients and the staff looking after them.

    it is time that the NHS drew on the best healthcare models around the world to come up with a unique and well adapted model of their own. they need to scrap organisations such as the NMC and CQC and adopt international or European quality standards with every single worker involved to ensure that all of the criteria are achieved and they can ownership and pride in the standard of services they provide.

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  • It is beautiful when you read about support some whistle blowers get. I guess they are .0001% of whistle blowers. The feeling and treated meted to you as a whistle blower is unmeasurable. You loss your reputation and your livelihood immediately, nobody beliefs you because management are able to use at their bent,cooked, misrepresented policy and procedure, and straight away they are believed. They drug to courts . Threatened with POVA, just turn your life unbearable.Unfortunate you complain of the injustice and you are advice to take it to the courts. Courts are not free and at this point the whistle blower has difficulty meeting his daily means, miserable and socially isolated.l have witnesses a case where a nurse was dismissed for gross misconduct , for protecting a vulnerable patient from harm, but management instead misreported that nurse caused patient harm, and they did not have evidence to support that, yet the police , cps took the nurse to court for alleged assault , only for the judge to dismiss the case. CPS later wrote to apologise for their action.All these times the nurse was left with severe emotional stress, NMC who believes in documentation didn't find any evidence from the hospital, yet they suspended the nurse for 18months, only after 17 months to say there is no case to answer. Nurse spoke Public concern at work, nothing , that the courts will deal with it. DBS reported that with the evidence the hospital has presented to it , it will be disproportionate to include the nurse on the barred list. Now his carrier has been ruined and no support from anywhere.
    Whistle blowing , or just raising genuine concern at work is more dangerous than crossing the motor way with your eyes close. These are done in the quite

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  • Tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 18-May-2014 8:52 pm

    New brooms, same handles unfortunately. Only those who care passionately about patient safety should become managers, not just those who leave the frontline staff in the lurch whilst climbing a greasy pole that disconnects them further and further from those who are providing the care.

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