A former Mid Staffordshire nurse whistleblower has been handed a special role to support staff wanting to raise concerns at her current trust.
Helene Donnelly has been appointed official ambassador for cultural change at Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership Trust.
The new role will encourage the community trust’s 6,000 staff to raise concerns as well as raise standards of professionalism.
Ms Donnelly, who has been seconded to the role for six months initially, will act as a frontline ally for staff to help
them quickly bring concerns about patient safety or care standards to the attention of senior management.
“My job is to hand hold and offer direct support,” she said. “Lots of staff don’t even know what warrants a genuine
concern or how to fill in an incident form. The paperwork can put people off.”
For example, she highlighted that the trust had its own confidential helpline to raise concerns, but only three people had used it since its launch last year.
“This can’t be because there have only been three concerns,” she said. “It must be because they don’t know about it, lack confidence in using it – or are worried how raising concerns will affect their life, how their colleagues will treat them, their jobs or professional development.”
The trust’s chief executive Stuart Poynor said: “As ambassador for cultural change, Helene has a clear remit from myself and the trust board to act freely and with complete autonomy from the management team as another route for issues of concern to be raised at the highest level.”
Ms Donnelly said she hoped the job would also raise standards, and ensure staff do not need to blow the whistle.
“Prevention is better than cure and I want our inductions to include more information about what’s expected of staff
in terms of raising concerns,” she told Nursing Times.
“I’ve talked so much about the negative side of things with Mid Staffs, now I want to do something positive – like
look at staff stress and advise how to minimise it, as that can impact on care failings.”
During six years working at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, Ms Donnelly repeatedly raised concerns about appalling care standards in accident and emergency – only for them to be ignored by management. She suffered bullying and intimidation by other nurses.
The government’s initial response to the public inquiry report on Mid Staffordshire said the NHS needed to
develop a “consistent culture of compassionate care”.
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