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'Raising concerns must be seen as the norm'


Huge congratulations to former Mid Staffs nurse whistleblower Helene Donnelly, and campaigner Julie Bailey, who received an OBE and CBE, respectively in the New Year Honours.

It says something about the culture of the NHS - and the wider society - that we now celebrate people who are prepared to stand up and say when things aren’t right and when patients’ lives are being put at risk. But although this is a fabulous way to start the new year, the fact that such acts of courage need to be lauded indicates that there is still much work to be done to ensure a safe health service.

Eight months after publication of the Francis report, an unannounced Care Quality Commission inspection at Wexham Park Hospital found serious problems “on almost all wards”, including poor cleanliness, often a lack of respect for the privacy and dignity of patients and inadequate infection control (see page 3).

While leadership and staffing gaps will have contributed to the problems, the CQC highlighted another potential cause. It found staff did not feel they could raise concerns or make suggestions for improvements and feared they would be bullied by their managers.

While honours are fantastic, I’m pretty sure Ms Donnelly and Ms Bailey would rather see a world where such acts of bravery and resilience are unnecessary

What Mid Staffs and every other scandal-hit trust have shown us is that frontline staff are best placed to identify what is wrong, and often know how to put it right - provided they are listened to.

Trust boards ignore their staff at their peril, and must avoid behaving like organisations that, in the words of Robert Francis QC, “hit the target and misses the point”.

Targets, measures and goals are important aspects of patient safety. But they are never more important than the patient.

So it is wonderful that the achievements of Ms Donnelly and Ms Bailey were recognised because they stood up for what was right. But isn’t it a shame that this should have to be the case? That a nurse was honoured because raising concerns about patient safety took real courage? And a patient’s daughter should be rewarded because the care her mother received was so harrowing she felt compelled to fight to ensure no one else endured the same fate?

While honours are fantastic, I’m pretty sure Ms Donnelly and Ms Bailey would rather see a world where such acts of bravery and resilience are unnecessary because quality and safety are the norm.

Nursing Times is working to achieve such a world with its Speak Out Safely campaign. If your organisation has not signed up, please put pressure on your board to do so today at and make sure that every patient is safe.

Jenni Middleton, editor Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed


Readers' comments (4)

  • I agree with the above, however I would rather see them awarded than loose their jobs, and trusts are crafty at this. i reported
    a H & S issue in 1990, suddenly I was made redundant, I won my tribunal and received a good compensation, but was not permitted to work in that area. I had problems getting another job and then had to travel miles. Again a couple of years ago reported serious issues, so the trust decided to retire me 1 week before the new retirement law, even though they had originally agreed to my staying on. So although in agreement when we are reporting for the benefit of our patients and staff I would rather see rewards

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  • David Dickinson

    I repeatedly reported abuses which resulted in a service wide Seclusion Review and the thanks of the Trust CEO but encountered a simultaneous campaign of spurious disciplinary allegations (eight in all) that concluded with one gross-misconduct following a computer "audit" involving 13 allegations of "inappropriately" accessing forensic patient adjacent ward files, finally reduced following arguments to accessing one seclusion abuse victim, not because it was "wrong" but because it was "too long". The Trust "lost" the appeal transcript recordings and failed to mention the participation's and cross examinations of the Trust Chairman and CEO. The Trust then referred to the NMC claiming my practice was "simply out of date". The NMC returned and resurrected all 13 original names plus another new charge of using my home computer for writing my original complaints about patient abuses. The NMC told me about my November 2013 hearing notification letter for a 17th February hearing on 21st January last then refused an adjournment saying that Ive had all last year to prepare and accusing me of posting protests and expressions of indignation on Twitter and this NT site. The RCN pulled out 18 months ago when I refused not to speak to the NMC directly.

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  • Maryam Omitogun

    It is good raise concern if truly there are concern.Raising concern will put things right and will detect more problems,protect service users and give room for quality care.

    Some people just raise untruthful concern if they want to put somebody into problem or wanting to downgrade the reputation of an Organisation or a member of staff or colleague. This is not right and should stop.

    I believe all Health care professional should know their ethical Rights, go through a recognised proper Nurse/Medical Institution posses a valid certificate and carry their work competently,confidently and excellently. If all the above are correct,I think there will be less concern raising and there will be peace every where.

    Maryam Dolapo Omitogun
    Greater London.

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  • if people communicated and talked to each other in a civil and open, honest manner there would be less need to raise so many concerns in the first place. failure to do so allows things to blow up into major issues on such a scale they cannot be adequtely dealt with.

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