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BBC panorama case may stop nurses whistleblowing


A “crisis of confidence” in the Care Quality Commission following the latest care scandal could prevent nurses from blowing the whistle on similar failings, it has been warned.

The CQC has come under fire after it failed to adequately investigate claims by a care home nurse that residents with learning disabilities were being abused.

A BBC Panorama programme shown last week revealed residents at the home in Bristol, run by private firm Castlebeck, were physically harmed and ridiculed by staff.

Royal College of Nursing head of policy Howard Catton said: “This creates the potential for a crisis of confidence in the regulator.”

He said it was “a significant and worrying consequence” of the episode that nurses could be reluctant to whistleblow, fearing no action would be taken.

Health select committee chair Stephen Dorrell has claimed nurses and the Nursing and Midwifery Council also had to take some responsibility for care failings.

Speaking on BBC’s Question Time on Thursday, he said: “There were nurses employed in that home – what were the nurses doing? Is there not a professional obligation on a nurse to make certain that the care they see being provided around them meets proper professional standards?”

The committee is due to hold an inquiry into NHS regulation, at which leaders from the NMC and CQC will be invited to give evidence in public.

NMC chief executive and registrar Professor Dickon Weir-Hughes said a number of nurses from Castlebeck were being investigated. He added that the involvement of healthcare assistants demonstrated the “serious gap in public protection” caused by their unregulated status.

The CQC is currently reviewing its actions relating to Castlebeck and the inspection of hospitals caring for people with learning disabilities.


Has the Care Quality Commission's failure to act on warnings of abuse dettered you from whistleblowing?

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Readers' comments (29)

  • Steve Williams

    Party time again. The RCN playing 'Blind mans bluff.' and the government playing 'Pass the parcel/blame (onto the RNs.)'

    Oddly enough it seems that for once only the NMC really have a clue what the reality of the situation is!!!

    The incident is unequivocal proof that regulation is required ASAP.

    End of argument. Stop playing games with other peoples lives.

    Oh yeah, Stephen Dorrell puts forward a very fatuous argument when he says “There were nurses employed in that home – what were the nurses doing?" One of them did complain Mr DOHHHrell and YOUR government's quango conveniently chose to ignore him - TWICE!

    Don't shoot the message bearer matey!

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  • I would have thought the contrary would be the case. not many registered nurses would wish to stand by and watch such treatment of their patients!

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  • I agree with anonymous 6 june-2011 4:01pm
    I was absolutely horrified by what I saw in the panorama programme, and would not hesitate to keep on at the authorities and the police if I witnessed such awful abuse. It was
    horrendous for both the former senior nurse, and for the reporter that went under cover. I hope the abusers are charged and convicted of assaults and the mental cruelty, and go to prison. i'm not holding my breath that they will get a decently long sentence though.

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  • My daughter works in a care home for elderly people suffering dementia. She went in one day to do her shift and found one of the ladies looking very ill and disorientated. She told her seniors who told her to get on with her work and that the lady probably had a cold coming. She kept checking the lady when she had a spare mo and was sure she was getting worse as the hours passed. She went to the homes manager and was told not to bother her and as she was not a trained nurse her opinion was not valid. By four oclock the lady had suppressed breathing and my daughter phoned for the gp. Two hours later the lady was hospitalised and my daughter was told that if she hadnt phoned the gp the lady would have died that night. The qualified nursing staff and home manager ignored my daughters pleas for help for the lady based on her being just a carer. She now receives an horrendous time at work from the management who think she went behind their backs to phone the gp. What alternative was left for her? she went through the correct channels and no one would listen to her. The residents are paying £975 per week to be treated like this. Something needs to change to protect the vulnerable people who cannot speak for themselves.

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  • regulation and a decent education and support structure.

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  • I would have thought that the panorama programme would have made nurses/care workers/public more likely to whistle blow. The atrocious behaviour that went on in that ‘care’ home cannot be an isolated case and I am sure gave many people a wake up call. As an RN I would have no hesitation on whistle blowing. However, as highlighted in the programme the monitoring system is broken and needs fixed and unfortunately will likely be used as a points score for the coalition. I don’t accept that the panorama programme will prevent nurses whistleblowing- health professionals are all too aware of the shortfalls of the CQC prior to this. Any decent health professional will speak out.

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  • NHS, I don't agree that it would make people more likely to whistleblow. As you say, the system is completely broken, and what IS there is absolutely not fit for purpose. There have been many problems with this for a long time, and many of us MAY speak out, but will either get no help or action in return (as has been the case with my own dealings with the CQC) or even worse, face the ingrained system of management bullying or witch hunting.

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  • michael stone

    To the previous two posters:

    I am tempted to agree with both of you - but a lot of people who make a fuss, do end up being scape-goated.

    Perhaps - and this suggestion rarely seems to crop up, in the NT blogs - the experience of individual nurses, depends on where they work ? Is it possible, that a 'good' institution, which will usually have and encourage good practice, behaves supportively and positively to 'complaints', but that 'bad' institutions, react very negatively to critical feedback or suggestions ?

    This would, perhaps, explain why so many nurses have horror stories of 'I complained but ....' and other nurses write 'Every nurse should raise these issues as soon as they happen' ?

    Only a thought !

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  • I see your point Michael, but I don't think it is as much to do with 'good' and 'bad' institutions, as it is the ingrained socialisation of Nurses from universities, the NMC etc that we must report, report, report, (as well as the genuine horror at situations such as this), versus the actual reality of the majority of institutions (primary and secondary care) and the situations those of us who HAVE reported and complained (and I include myself in that number) have found themselves in.

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  • There is no protection what so ever for whistle blowers in the NHS.

    If you blow the whistle it's career over, The fall out can be devastating for those brave enough to support you.

    How do i know this - I blew the whistle

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