Nurses who raise child welfare or safeguarding concerns but fear they are being ignored can turn to a charity helpline, which has been awarded “whistleblowing” status by the government.
Since January the children’s charity the NSPCC has featured on an official list of “prescribed bodies”, which professionals can go to if they feel concerns are not being taken seriously by their employer.
“For junior staff, it can be difficult to challenge your line manager or a senior member of clinical staff”
The charity said it requested the status because it was getting numerous calls from professionals, including nurses, worried about how their organisations had responded to concerns about child welfare.
John Cameron, the NSPCC’s head of child protection operations, said often calls were from junior staff who may find it harder to challenge managers or fear for their jobs.
“We have had a number of calls from junior doctors and nurses who have called us to say they have tried to raise a particular concern and were struggling to be heard,” he told Nursing Times.
“There are hierarchies in health and for junior staff it can be difficult to challenge your line manager or a senior member of clinical staff,” he said.
Under laws designed to protect whistleblowers, it is illegal to take action against an employee simply because they have reported suspected wrongdoing or raised safety concerns.
Reporting concerns to a “prescribed body” offers whistleblowers some protection should they end up facing disciplinary procedures or dismissal.
Nurses can contact the NSPCC anonymously and the charity will take action on information that suggests a child or children are at risk.
The charity encouraged nurses to report child welfare concerns via their trust’s internal mechanisms but noted that it could also advise them on the best way to do that, said Mr Cameron.
“Sometime people come to us and say ‘I spoke to someone and they dismissed it out of hand’,” he said.
“But it may be that they didn’t present their concerns clearly enough or pinpoint the real risks to the child, so it may be about helping them think of another way of putting those concerns together and making a stronger case,” he added.
Other issues that have come up include healthcare professionals being unsure about the roles of different agencies or not knowing how to report concerns.
Mr Cameron stressed that the charity’s helpline was also there for nursing managers and safeguarding leads who might be unsure about how to proceed when child welfare concerns were raised with them.
“It’s important that nurses and their manager are au fait with their internal protocols and procedures, and managers have a clear duty and responsibility to ensure staff are aware of those,” he said.
“If someone has shared a concern and a manager is uncertain what to do, they can call us and get information and advice,” he told Nursing Times.
“Some nursing staff may have concerns about external agencies like children’s services or the police and may need advice and support on how to express those concerns and we’re here for that as well,” he added.