The government needs to do something now the dust has settled on Francis 2, Cavendish, Keogh and Berwick.
I said that a couple of weeks back. The time for reporting and reviewing is done, and now it’s time for action. People working in the NHS and the public who use it want to see implementation. They want to see change.
Last week, Patients First, the network of health professionals and supporters campaigning for an open and transparent NHS, wrote an open letter to the prime minister calling for action. The letter was in response to the Berwick review’s call for the NHS to become a learning organisation. Of course, Professor Berwick and Patients First both recognise that openness is a big part of that.
The group is asking David Cameron to read their case studies of staff who have tried to raise concerns but been silenced, bullied or gagged. They want him to see their files so he can understand the full extent of what is going on, and hopefully stir him into action to create a culture that is more receptive to those concerns being raised. Patients First believes – and our experience since we launched the Speak Out Safely campaign echoes this – that cases where serious concerns are ignored are far from isolated.
Patients First has also been calling for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission related to the NHS, so that mistakes can be acknow-ledged, and the learning environment Professor Berwick called for can actually be fostered.
Certainly, we know something needs to change in the NHS. Stuart Poynor, chief executive of Stoke and Staffordshire Partnership Trust, has worked closely with ex-Mid Staffs nurse whistleblower Helene Donnelly, transforming her role into ambassador for cultural change to ensure staff are encouraged to raise concerns. But such cultures are not consistent. Many people still report being ignored, demonised, ostracised or paid off – with public money.
The only things that so-called compromise agreements seem to do is compromise patient safety. This must stop. Public money must not be used to silence those trying to protect the public.
It must be accepted that sometimes things will go wrong – and that mistakes can be owned up to and learnt from.
Our ambitions in organising Speak Out Safely are similar to those of Patients First, and we urge trusts to sign up to our campaign. Visit nursingtimes.net/sos to find out how you can get involved in creating a better NHS.
- You can see Patients First’s letter at https://www.nursingtimes.net/PFOpenLetter