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Nurses need duties and rights to speak up over care, says RCN


The Royal College of Nursing has pledged its support for our Speak Out Safely campaign, which aims to help bring about an NHS that is not only honest and transparent but also actively encourages staff to raise the alarm and protects them when they do so.

RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “All nurses set out to do a good job. They go into the NHS to look after people with compassion, but with resources being squeezed there can be times when care falls below the standards the public should expect.

“We, like Nursing Times, believe that frontline staff have the right, the ability and indeed the duty to speak up when they see care failings that put patients at risk of harm. There are many organisations where management handle complaints and concerns well, but this is still not consistent in the NHS.”

He added: “We must ensure that nurses – and all NHS staff – are able to tell us what is going on and what is going wrong. We wholeheartedly support Nursing Times Speak Out Safely Campaign.”

Nursing Times is calling for a statutory “duty of candour” introduced compelling NHS staff to be open about care failings; for trusts to add specific protection to their whistleblowing policies for those raising concerns; and ministers to undertake a full review of the Public Interest Disclosure Act to ensure whistleblowers are fully protected.

The campaign has also been backed by nurse whistleblowers Helene Donnelly and Jennie Fecitt as well as groups including the Florence Nightingale Foundation, Cure the NHS, Patients First, and Public Concern at Work.

Are you able to Speak Out Safely? Sign our petition to put pressure on your trust to support an open and transparent NHS.


University Hospitals of Leicester Trust has become the second NHS orgnisation to declare its support for the Speak Out Safely campaign.  

In a statement the trust said: “We already actively encourage any member of our staff to raise genuine concerns they might have about patient safety or quality of care… but are proud to also add our support to the Nursing Times as they encourage NHS staff to raise concerns at the earliest opportunity.

“We understand how important it is that staff feel safe and supported to raise concerns in an honest and transparent environment, and that they feel protected when they have come forward.”

Heart of England Foundation Trust became the first NHS organisation to back our campaign earlier this month.

Nursing Times has drafted a statement that trusts are being encouraged to endorse and place on their websites in support of the campaign.


Readers' comments (11)

  • michael stone

    Good !

    Perhaps the RCN should get behind my 'network of Culture Champions' idea (a layer of 'embedded Culture Champions' for each 'role' {so ward nurses, ward managers, porters, middle-managers, junior doctors, etc, all have one or more CCs for 'their layer'}), with 'systemic concerns' being raised with 'your own' CC, who canvasses opinion within 'your layer' to see 'if this has got support', then raises the issue with the appropriate CC for whatever 'layer' might be able to deal with it, then if this CC network cannot resolve the issue, one or more CCs take the concern to the Board (but without the board knowing who originally raised the issue - all the Board would know, was that 'this issue is definitely a concern to ward nurses', or whatever).

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  • care failings include short staffing and inadequate skill-mix. what protection and support are nurses going to get when we report this, at the moment no-one seems interested.

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  • "Nurses need duties and rights to speak up over care, says RCN"

    are there not words to this effect or the implication in the NMC code? is this not the book of rules nurses have to adhere to to stay on the professional register? or do employers have the right to over ride the code and silence those whom they wish?

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  • Action speaks louder words. it is easy to say whistle blowers are protected. Are the courts aware of the protection? Let us not keep deceiving/ tickling ourselves and laughing . Nurses are facing fitness to practice because they raise concerns of poor practices, but normally under the flimsy mistake. I had an experience where a nurse was accused of physical assault resulting to injuries. NMC , suspended the Nurse based on the documents the managers provided. However NMC who preaches record keeping, and have a say ' if it is not written it did not happen', The hospital were unable to provide any medical report , patient was not given any first aid, nor were there any entries in patient clinical notes to state the allegation. Later the hospital reported that 'No medical professional saw patient.In the bundle of document they reported that as a result of the restraint patient was seen by a doctor who recorded injuries xyz. This was brought to NMC's notice, they still held to their decision. The point here is all these cry about safeguarding, whistle blowing and duty of candour are not new in nursing. The people to implement these effectively is what we lack, how do we develop people to be honest ,keep patient care at heart. TO SPEAK OUT = LOSS REPUTATION, castigated and support by the same agencies who claim they will support you. W£e have the longest journey to go.

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  • Nurses should also be able to speak out about other health workers such as receptionists, HCAs and doctors. It's not just about nurses 'reporting' nurses.

    If you witness poor care then you need to speak to your ward manager, most of the time nothing is done which is one reason people don't report. Another reason is that reporting a member of staff can be nothing more than a spiteful, misguided, vicious attempt to get rid of someone you don't like - when are we going to hear about what is being done to stop all the back-biting and bullying that is rife in the health industry?

    We have endless reporting of protection for 'whistleblowers' but hear nothing about vindictive, false, exaggerated 'blown out of all proportion' allegations - why is that?
    We hear nothing about staff being moved sideways or staff being promoted when they have no right to either.

    We hear nothing about managers who allow unsafe staffing levels to continue which ultimately lead to poor patient care.

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  • Maybe we on the shop floor should strike for a day. Make sure the wards are staffed by managers, there are enough of them. Admin managers could take on the role of HCAs and nurse managers could stand in for band 5s after all they know it all so it shouldn't be a problem for them. How else are any of them going to know what it is really like to be short staffed. Being told to fill in an incident form when you try to raise the issue of short staffing doesnt work.

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  • Anonymous | 18-Apr-2013 9:11 pm

    Excellent idea. I'm sure there's more than enough managers and directors, just ensure at least 1 senior nurse to supervise and prevent poor/incompetent practices on affected wards.

    Alternatively invite local MPs around to see the quality and resources we have for our patients for a day, then subsequent unannounced visits. I wonder if that would improve Staffing levels.

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  • I raised concerns in writting about the safety of my patients, poor care, neglect and my manager in front of the HR representative said not to write any more about this issues, if I have to say something then to tell her face to face. I told her that this is against NMC code and shorthely after that she dismissed me. It is very frustrating to work like that no being able to protect my patients and to perform my job knowing that I work in a very unsafe environment and the managers dont't care about it.

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  • I have been submitting incident reports because of poor staffing levels, only to be told by my manager that its not appropriate to do this.

    I have escalated concerns right up to the CEO but have not been approached to discuss my concerns.

    Nothing has been resolved. So I whistle blew because in some instances patient care was compromised.

    I have been treated with contempt. It is disgusting that the people at the very top can ignore those of us who raise serious concerns.

    There is no point having legislation if it is ignored. I worry about my job security and promotion opportunities.

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  • quite honestly, there is very little point of studying and qualifying and registering with a professional body and being an autonomous professional in your own right and an adult citizen of your nation if you are not permitted to voice your observations and talk about any patients under your care or any other patients you consider are not being treated correctly!

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