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Peter Carter: 'Ultimately it is patients that suffer when staff are ignored'


It is extremely worrying that a large number of nurses still feel their concerns are going unheard, even worse that some have to live with the threat of reprisal.

Robert Francis’s report clearly spelt out what happens when members of staff are ignored.

There needs to be greater transparency in the current system so that nurses feel supported when they do raise concerns.

The RCN has repeatedly said that all nursing staff have a responsibility to protect their patients and speak out when they see examples of poor care. However, they need to be confident that managers will take action.

This should run from the line manager on a ward to a trust’s Chief Executive and Board.

In 2009, the RCN introduced a whistleblowing hotline, although this is no replacement for staff raising concerns with their employers.

Ultimately it is patients that suffer when staff are ignored. We need senior staff across the NHS to know what is happening on their wards and pledge that no member of staff will suffer victimisation when they do speak out.

Dr Peter Carter is chief executive & general secretary, Royal College of Nursing

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.


Readers' comments (3)

  • I have personal experience of going to the RCN for help and advice when I blew the Whistle about a colleague who had falsified their qualifications (2008/2009).
    As the process of Whistle Blowing Policy advanced, the whistle blower was bullied by some work colleagues and some managers; the Health Authority 'sat on their collective hands’ and waited until the work place situation was untenable.
    Then the Whistle Blower was punished, (although this is illegal under the Public Interest Disclosure Act), under an all encompassing umbrella of, 'the department is now not functioning properly'.
    The Health Authority bullied and punished the whistle blower which was illegal and unjust. The PIDA appeared to be ineffective as there was no independent person to enforce the points of the law. The Health Authority continued to destroy the whistle blower. Things went on towards a court case.
    Although the local RCN reps were very kind and supportive the official line from the RCN was that they do not get involved in Whistle Blowing court cases as it was too expensive, especially if they lost. The financial cost would impact directly on other RCN members.
    Having been a member of the RCN for 20 years+ I felt, and was completely let down by the RCN.
    Perhaps the RCN should revisit its commitment to it’s members where whistle blowing is concerned?
    I did appeal the RCNs decision, but I am sure you will not be surprised by their final decision – the RCN had done nothing wrong.
    I have changed unions as the failure of the RCN in my situation was appalling and complete.
    The RCNs refusal to support me, in effect, supported this health authority in their obliteration of me.

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  • Anonymous | 5-Mar-2013 11:29 am

    Despicable, but sadly, very believable

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  • the problems in the NHS have been identified and much has been written about what 'should' be done to address them. It is very easy for officers from outside the healthcare services to do this on paper and in the media. But how is this going to change attitudes and all that is wrong.

    The quote from Peter Carter, is obvious, at least to front line staff and has been for a very long time so why are such headlines and quotes still appearing? Have some of these people in key positions only just woken up and realised or are there reports which have been sitting in the archives for a long time gathering dust until the journalists dig them out one day decided to publish them for want of something better when news is thin on the ground?

    The underlying psychodynamics of the NHS need to be examined at every single level from the very top down to the very bottom to understand why individuals are not communicating with each other (in a respectful and fully open, transparent and comprehensible manner) and working all together for the key purpose of the organisation which is the health, wellbeing and benefits of the patients who entrust them with their care and their lives, identify what is needed and what must be rapidly done to address these issues and immediately take action with each individual or group of individuals to ensure adequate understanding of their role, training, change attitudes and weed out those unsuitable for their job in their team and as part of their organisation. Only then will the collective attitudes and organisational culture change from an unhealthy and unproductive and thoroughly unpleasant one to one which cares for its staff, patients, their relatives and visitors and each other and not by spewing out endless reports and edicts stating the obvious from an ivory tower without any positive action which only acts as a further message and reinforcement of the fact that the staff are being ignored and can no longer be taken seriously!

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