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EDITOR’S COMMENT

'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 nursingtimes.net/sos to find out how.

Jenni Middleton, editor

jenni.middleton@emap.com. 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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  • Definitely understand the scepticism above!

    I've lost jobs through persistently raising issues about patient care. It always put me at the top of the redundancy list and I was viewed as a troublemaker by managers, but I wouldn't equate my few unhappy experiences with the awful persecution some others have faced. Still glad I spoke out!

    If you have good qualifications, work hard and are a decent nurse, other jobs are always possible. The worst times for me were when I was blacklisted locally & had to commute to get a job out of the area.

    The difficult thing is building your career, because you have to take the jobs you can get quickly, even if they don't develop you or offer new challenges. But it feeds the kids and pays the bills.

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 20-May-2014 9:45 am

    well done, need more like you to put things right. I remain a hopeful cynic despite these dire times:)

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  • Anonymous | 20-May-2014 9:45 am

    if you have been through all of that you are well developed already and far more than very many I would say. well done but sorry about all the frustrations it must have led you through.

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  • was going to add to the above - as long as you can feed the kids it is better to be a poor nurse and an honest one.

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  • michael stone

    tinkerbell | 16-May-2014 11:24 am

    You raised an interesting point there.

    If - as should be the case - 'the NHS' does change its 'attitude' and seek to learn and inprove when people raise concerns, those people will no longer be described as whistle blowers (if raising issues became the norm, I'm guessing they wouldn't even 'be labelled').

    But I'm pretty sure that whistleblower as a term will continue, even if only for those people who become so frustrated 'by whatever system is in place' that they 'step outside it' to highlight their issue.

    Someone did make the point, that some managers tend to not treat concerns in the 'this is something we might be able to learn from' way, because they are simply to time-pressured to examine concerns properly: that is very probably, I suspect, true in many cases (lots of people in the NHS seem really busy).

    However, that is probably a systemic flaw - learning from [useful] concerns, would probably save 'time' in the longer term.

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  • tinkerbell

    well managers ought to prioritise their time and focus won what is fundamentally important, peoples lives and well being. There may be reasons but they should not be used as excuses. It's all about 'effective' time management and management by 'walkabout' not sat in some office with your thumb up your arse contemplating your fecking navel.

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  • michael stone

    I've just started looking at the NMC new code consultation (it has got 'best interests' wrong, for a start) and:

    This is in the draft revised NMC Code:


    67. Those with managerial or leadership responsibilities must ensure that those they are responsible for are protected from any harm, detriment or unwarranted
    treatment following the raising of a concern and that concerns are escalated promptly and appropriately.


    If that principle can be made to apply to managers who are NOT themselves nurses, then at least it is there in black-and-white (provided it stays in the final version).

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  • tinkerbell

    Mike, I laugh at this kinda of tosh now, NMC, my dierriere. I'm getting a bit heated under the collar so will retire to my 'happy place' for a while and return when my mood improves or the gp can px me some sanity pills to get through this loada shite.

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  • No-one who applies to be a manager should be actually employed as such. Leaders should be elected, so should managers. And not by those high in the food chain.

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  • michael stone

    tinkerbell | 20-May-2014 3:13 pm

    I'm sort of with you, Tink - the guidance that the NHS churns out, almost always 'covers most of the bases' and [like 67 above] in particular, it 'covers the backs' of its authors. But we both know that even if the new NMC Code includes section 67 - which looks very clear - the behaviour/experience on the ground will almost certainly be rather different.

    There was a piece in the recent RCP 'death in hospital audit' summary report, which implies that MDTs are killing end-of-life patients (that isn't something I believe, but it was interesting and it also reveals that some of this stuff isn't well proof-read !). I suspect the RCP is now a bit unhappy about that particular mistake.

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