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Francis calls for new protection for whistleblowers


Nurse whistleblowers could be protected in future from pressure to keep quiet if key recommendations in the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry report are adopted.

Robert Francis QC told Nursing Times he wanted to create whistleblowing safeguards through a new criminal offence for any individual or organisation that “willfully obstructs” someone trying to raise concerns.

One of the key recommendations in his report called for a legally binding “duty of candour”, which would require all NHS staff and directors to be open and honest when mistakes occurred and to speak up where there was a potential risk to patients.

Mr Francis also recommended a new criminal offence where any healthcare worker could be prosecuted if they knowingly obstructed others from raising concerns, provided misleading information to patients or families, or made a dishonest statement to a commissioner or regulator.

Speaking to Nursing Times, Mr Francis said: “I have called for a statutory duty of candour that trusts tell the truth to regulators and that there should be criminal sanctions if there’s willful obstruction of anyone performing their duties and informing their trusts about concerns to patients.

“That is about as rigorous protection of whistleblowers as you can imagine, and that’s what I intended,” he said.

Dean Royles, director of the organisation NHS Employers, acknowledged that trusts had previously failed to “convince staff” to raise concerns.

But he said Mr Francis’s recommendations would require a “mammoth communication effort and training of staff and managers so they understand the obligations and implications”.

“We need the big win to be the cultural change, not the criminal sanction,” he added.



Readers' comments (12)

  • Yes But

    This particular issue, has been discussed at length within the posts on this site: transparentcy and openness is the usual call, whenever things like Mid Staffs are looked at - but Trust lawyers seem to be in favour of 'gagging' whenever being open might cause the Trust to pay damages, and very few Chief Execs seem keen to say 'This went very wrong, on my watch' (although almost all will admit to mistakes prior to their own term in office).

    You have to legitimise the raising of concerns, and to achieve that you MUST protect people who are raising 'systemic' concerns !

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  • michael stone

    It is absolutely crucial, to prevent the bullying and victimisation, of staff who raise concerns.

    As Yes But points out, this has been mentioned a lot in NT posts - anyone who reads the posts on NT, should be able to see this problem !

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  • I lost my job for daring to raise concerns I found myself caught between two masters,,,my manager and the NMC. Eventually I was sacked for serious insubordination. I was expected to carry out procedures that put my patients at risk.I was told I spent too much time with my elderly frail patients etc etc.I couldn`t win .It was horrendous! I put my concerns in writing! No support ! No one cared !! After 32yrs I feel its all been for nothing!

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  • "insubordination"? to whom?

    a nurse of 32 years. it disgusts me. in fact so much so i can find nothing else to say. sorry.

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  • Every nurse sit up take note, when a ward is understaffed call the manager to get you help, tell them if they cannot get help then they MUST come and help as the ward is in a Dangerous way for patient care.
    Don't be goody two shoes and try to run yourself down.

    I do feel however that we are constantly trying to be just above the dangerous level and that is not good enough.
    There need to be sufficient time for teaching, learning, treatments, medication administration, dealing wih relatives, meals, documentation, planning, reviewing care, etc.
    Why cannot we have sufficient staff and good management, is it because they want to break up the NHS? Is that the game?

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  • Private Care organisations as well!

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 11-Feb-2013 3:51 pm

    sorry too to hear you were sacked. Don't let the bast**ds grind you down. It hasn't all been for nothing.

    Insubordination - pathetic.

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  • I also lost my job having been forced to resign following being disciplined for Gross Misconduct and bringing the organisation into disrepute for raising concerns about the welfare of a baby and sending a confidential e-mail expressing my individual views to someone at the University. Despite at appeal the decision was overturned 3 months after the disciplinary decision the Trust say that they cannot apologise as they did nothing wrong!! Amazing!! The fact that another very experienced nurse, 39 years in the NHS, has been lost the Trust just do not want to know. Those of us who have high, safe and caring standards of care will continue to be victimised when we raise concerns as we can see it is still going on.

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  • We have been instructed not to talk to anyone by our trust management. If the management ignore or deny that there are problems, who can we tell? We are gagged and scared to speak out because we fear disciplinary action. Damned if we do, damned if we don't...........

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  • If you work in the NHS you become very good at 'fire fighting'.
    Long term planning of somethings doesn't seem to be hgh on the agenda.
    It feels as if you fight your way through one shift, keeping everyone safe. Then the next shift starts . . .

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