The launch of our Speak Out Safely campaign, which seeks to protect those who raise concerns about NHS care, was covered by Sky News, the BBC, The Telegraph, national radio and many other national and local print, digital and broadcast media following its launch on 3 March.
We predicted our campaign would get a fair degree of attention. After all, the national media has been obsessed with the idea that patients are being put at risk by cover-ups and pay-offs since 14 February when former United Hospitals Lincolnshire Trust chief executive Gary Walker alleged he had been gagged by NHS bosses, then attempted his own Valentine’s Day Massacre of NHS top brass. He’s due to give evidence to the Health Select Committee on 19 March.
Sign our Speak out Safely petition and support an open and transparent NHS
We were all bracing ourselves for days of attacks on nursing and other health professions after Robert Francis QC published his observations into what went wrong at Mid Staffordshire. But a bigger story was brewing. “Walkergate” ended up getting higher-profile exposure than any of Mr Francis’ 290 recommendations.
We were shocked by the number of nurses, doctors and patients who told us about things that had gone wrong, and who had been silenced when they exposed the truth
Last year’s Nursing Times summit focused on raising concerns and whistleblowing. We saw then health professionals who have the courage to speak out are often not treated consistently or fairly. Until people across the whole of the NHS are able to stand up and say things are not right, patients will, of course, be at risk.
When we started our campaign to do something about this, we were shocked by the number of nurses, doctors and patients who contacted us about things that had gone wrong, and how they had been silenced when they tried to expose the truth.
Last week, I met Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for health, and he promised to meet with me to discuss this campaign.
The main objectives of Speak Out Safely are to persuade the government to implement the Francis recommendations on whistleblowing and strengthen the protection under the Public Interest Disclosure Act, and to push healthcare providers to make it explicit in their whistleblowing policies that staff who raise genuine concerns will not be disciplined. But the campaign is about more than that. It’s about everyone in the NHS being open to the idea that things do go wrong and, when they do, the only way to learn from them is to be open about them.
Hiding the truth is just hiding the harm. It’s time for everyone - managers and colleagues - to make this change.
If you haven’t signed our petition, please do so now at tinyurl.com/NTSOS-petition. Your signature will make all the difference.
Visit our Speak out Safely page to find out more.
Jenni Middleton, editor
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed