Whistleblowers must be listened to and supported. That was the message from the health secretary Jeremy Hunt as he spoke at last week’s Patient Safety Congress.
It’s a laudable aim and one that, of course, we’d support as the now award-winning Nursing Times Speak Out Safely campaign gathers pace.
But while he says this on various conference platforms up and down the country, is anything really being done to change the culture of denial, cover up and blame in the health service?
Mr Hunt is yet to officially endorse signing up to the ambition of Speak Out Safely. And let’s face it, all SOS wants is to make organisations put a public pledge on their website to listen to those who raise concerns, and treat them with respect. Why wouldn’t the health secretary be encouraging organisations to sign up to this ambition? In fact, why do they need encouraging at all?
As we’ve said many times before, encouraging your staff to raise concerns actually saves you money as well as assuring higher quality care and safety
As we’ve said many times before, encouraging your staff to raise concerns actually saves you money as well as assuring higher quality patient care and safety.
At the conference, Mr Hunt talked about his recent visit to Virginia Mason Hospital in the US, where he described how a proud chief executive had told him how many incident reports he had had in one month - 800 (see news, page 3). It is a shame we do not have a culture where concerns are celebrated and welcomed in this way. Mr Hunt went on to evidence how this Seattle hospital had seen a 75% fall in the number of litigation claims it received between 2004-05 and 2012-13 when the number of incident reports increased from 2,696 to 9,277 annually.
This is one reason - but not the only reason - that chief executives and board directors should be begging their staff to tell them what’s wrong with their hospital and how they can fix it. Why isn’t he dictating that staff raise concerns and are asked when they’ve done so in their regular appraisals? Alarm bells should ring when they don’t raise concerns rather than when they do. Until it becomes normal practice to say something isn’t right, whistleblowers and those who raise concerns will continue to be seen - as many people told me at the Patient Safety Congress - as “troublemakers”.
We need to celebrate the people who stand up for standards. We need to say well done to the whistleblowers. We need to raise a glass to those who raise concerns. Those are the people who will make care better. Those are the people who will make care safer.
● Is your trust signed up to our award-winning Speak Out Safely campaign? Go to nursingtimes.net/sos and find out how to sign up today
Jenni Middleton, editor
email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed