Nurses and other staff have undoubtedly been prevented from speaking out about what has gone wrong in some NHS organisations for many years.
From my 20-year career working in the health service, and I know that a failure to fully listen to and support staff who raise concerns will not only demotivate and demoralise hard-working dedicated staff but will ultimately lead to care failings and impact on safety.
We saw at Mid Staffs how ignoring a whistleblower leads to tragedy.
I think this could easily have happened at my former trust, and that is why I blew the whistle. The only way to avoid this happening in other organisations is to formally strengthen the position of those who raise concerns, and offer them the fullest extent of protection in law.
Since I spoke out on the BBC Today programme last month, I have been contacted daily by NHS staff who tell me their heartbreaking stories of bullying, ignorance and mismanagement of their concerns. This must stop, and stop now.
This culture of bullying is damaging to the NHS, to its dedicated staff and, most importantly, to the sick people it should be protecting.
I fully support Nursing Times Speak Out Safely campaign. I want to see a statutory duty of candour that compels health professionals and managers to be honest about care failings. But those who are brave enough to must feel protected, and not be concerned that they may lose their jobs or the respect of their peers if they do so. I also applaud the aim to strengthen PIDA to protect whistleblowers.
But ultimately, I believe that people shouldn’t have to go through what I have – they should be able to raise concerns, and not need to blow the whistle.
Sign our Speak Out Safely petition to support a transparent and open NHS. We are calling on the government to implement recommendations from the Francis report that will increase protection for staff who raise concerns about patient care.“So I urge you to sign the Nursing Times petition, and put an end to this culture of secrecy, bullying and cover-ups, funded by public money. Make sure you are able to speak out safely.”
Gary Walker, former chief executive of United Hospital Lincolnshire Trust