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Managers must back new guidance for nurse whistleblowers

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New guidance for nurse whistleblowers must have the backing of NHS managers if it is to have any impact, say unions.

The NMC has started work on improving guidance on whistleblowing and last week held talks on the issue with representatives from the main nursing unions and the independent body Public Concern at Work.

The talks focused on how nurses were often discouraged from whistleblowing by fears it could have a negative effect on their career, and the need for ‘clearer signposts’ on how to go about whistleblowing correctly and with confidence.

The move follows the high-profile case of Margaret Haywood, the nurse struck off in April for breaking patient confidentiality while filming undercover for the BBC’s Panorama programme.

Nursing Times understands that during the meeting unions argued that the guidance for nurses would not work unless it received the full backing of NHS Employers, which they said should also develop its own separate guidance for trusts.

Speaking later, Unison head of nursing Gail Adams said: ‘There is a job of work here for NHS Employers to develop some clear guidance on whistleblowing. There is no point in the NMC taking this route if employers are restricting what people can say.’

Karen Reay, Unite national officer for health, added: ‘We need to have NHS Employers in on this debate.’

In a statement on the meeting, Christina McKenzie, NMC head of midwifery, said there had been a consensus about the need to involve other stakeholders including employers of nurses and midwives. ‘We are addressing the matter with urgency,’ she said.

However, Alastair Henderson, deputy director of NHS Employers, said it already had guidance for trusts on the issue, including the Whistleblowing For A Healthy Practice toolkit and Whistleblowing Case Studies.

Overall Ms Adams said the meeting was very productive. ‘There was commitment in all cases to work together,’ she said.

Nursing Times understands the new guidance will be in place by the autumn.

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