Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

EDITOR’S COMMENT

'Whistleblowers will face bullying from every side'

  • 40 Comments

We’ve seen recently how whistleblowers can have tremendous power, from Winterbourne View care home to News International.

We live in a society where people are prepared to speak out when wrongs occur and those in authority act on them. Or do we?

The Commons health committee recommended last week that nurses and other health workers should face investigation if they do not report poor care. But this feels a little like bullying to those who fear for their jobs if they do raise concerns.

Winterbourne View whistleblower Terry Bryan called the Care Quality Commission before he gave up and went to BBC’s Panorama programme. Margaret Haywood was struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery Council for secret filming for Panorama which breached patient confidentiality. This appalled many nurses who felt the means justified the ends. Graham Pink lost his job after raising concerns over poor care of the elderly in 1991.

According to a senior nurse I spoke to who has raised concerns herself, such cases are not unique. Blowing the whistle can be an uncomfortable and demoralising experience. There is much to deter nurses and others from making a noise about poor care.

The health committee is right to say the whistleblowing system needs reform to safeguard patients - but what about safeguarding those brave enough to put their heads above the parapet? Is a punitive approach really what’s needed?

Nurses who raise concerns complain they are terrorised by managers and persecuted by colleagues. This latest suggestion feels like bullying from the other side, so you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Supportive workplaces, training for managers and protection for staff who speak up are needed.

A new website - www.nhsconcern.org.uk - allows nurses and others to raise concerns anonymously. This will help, but we need assurances that concerns will be acted on. After all, there is little point in speaking out unless someone will listen.

  • 40 Comments

Readers' comments (40)

  • There is also the fear that whistle-blowers will never get work again...because word gets around, and the whistleblower becomes notorious amongst potential employers. I know people who have been put into this deplorable position as a result of trying to improve standards in their workplaces.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • You are absolutely right Jenni. The terrorising and bullying and harassment is all to real and common an occurrence for those of us who speak up about poor standards. I think however that ensuring anonymity or giving protection to whistleblowers is enough, why not sort out the root of the problem and go after those who bully and witch hunt and the organisational culture which allows it to happen (*Cough* the NMC *Cough*!)

    Another point, as you rightly say, is that it is all very well and good stating that concerns can be raised confidentially, but what is the point when we KNOW (and I am speaking from personal as well as observed experience here) that absolutely sod all will be done to act on those concerns raised? I still have an email from a while back, from the CQC stating they agreed with me about a particular point made about a particular issue (I won't say what for obvious reasons) but there was nothing they could do! So again, what is the bloody point? We are risking our backsides for nothing!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Sorry, should have read is NOT enough above. Why don't they have an immediate edit function on here? grr!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • nurses do not take whistleblowing lightly and do it for no reason. therefore if it was handled correctly there would be no need for anonymity. However, some of the recent whistleblowers have had their names splashed all over the media which is definitely not good for their reputation or future career.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous | 2-Aug-2011 6:06 pm exactly!! Upholding confidentiality is only a one way street it seems.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • In my experience, it is not wise to speak out. I worked for one of the biggest private care home groups, for many years. When a new Manager was employed, the standards went downhill rapidly. Around one third of the staff left in the first year, due to the poor leadership. Scapegoats were found if problems arose, resulting in referrals to NMC and ISA. Many of us attempted to raise concerns diplomatically with the Manager, with no result. I then tried to speak to senior Managers, who brushed off my concerns. Eventually I decided to leave. Since then, I have applied for a couple of positions elsewhere in the company. I have never even got as far as an interview, the excuse being that they had an exceptional amount of candidates, however two of these positions remained unfilled for months. I think that speaks for itself.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • tinkerbell


    It might be a good idea to change the word 'whistleblower' to something more positive, as whistle blowing I think is now considered to have negative connotations. Having been a whistle blower in the past, I know from experience, I was viewed as 'dangerous' even amongst my own colleagues who knew abuse was going on. Some of them were the perpetrators of the abuse so I didn't expect them to throw a thank you party for me, but even those who hadn't particpated, the good guys, viewed me as some kind of 'loose canon' and distanced themselves from me. I would do the same again even though it was tough and I ended up being sent home by a manager a year or so later because of the 'strain' it placed me under. Somehow you are viewed as a 'traitor' for sticking up for the patients against your colleagues. Ultimately after a long investigation I was offered a post 'elsewhere' to remove me from the bad feeling of others, or was it? When whistleblowers are treated in this appalling way I can fully understand why they do not want to put themselves into the firing line, but if as above, all this could change, and it is already too long coming, then at last we shall be free to the do the 'right thing'. It is a sad lesson to learn that some managers really don't want to know about what goes on behind closed doors and a real eye opener for me at the time because I was naive enough to think that they would want to know. The dogs aren't barking because they are too frightened of a beating. They have probably seen other whistleblowers hung out to dry, ex-communicated and left a wreck wondering what on earth it was they did that was wrong, when they themselves would have liked to have reported the same problems also. If reporting abuse then leaves you wide open to become a victim of abuse by the people you reported the abuse to then what hope is there for people to volunteer themselves for that?. Every concern raised, wherever possible, should be resolved at the lowest level possible, but when this does not happen, then there is nothing left but to blow the whislte, and as it stands at the moment, take your lumps! What a farce.

    Unsuitable or offensive?
    .



    Have your say




    Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment


  • Well said Tinkerbell
    I whistle blew and was made redundant because it. I went to tribunal and won my case. However the compensation did not cover the stigma and pain that I had to endure. Needless to say I had 3 years grief. I applied for more than 1000 jobs, ( at nearly every interview I was questioned regarding my case) before eventually obtained temporary contracts, and lost a lot of so called friends. I was unaware at the time of the tribunal that my details were made known to other HR Departments and that quite a few senior HR persons were present at that the hearing. Really it is hard to whistle blow, but patients could be our relatives, or even us. I have whistle blown in my present role when policies are not being adhered by managers both clinical (medical and nursing) and managerially which affects patient care and staff welfare, and where there are nurse training needs; consequently I am subject to bullying and although initiating the grievance procedure 3 years ago no actions have been taken to solve the issues. Regrettable some Hr seem to be management friendly and take the managers side when incidents occur. I have had severe scrutiny by managers on the shop floor and excessive workload being put my way . Although I consider myself to be a hard working caring nurse, I think my role will soon be terminated, according to reliable colleagues who have informed me that I will be leaving shortly. Whistle blowing, unless you really care and are able to take the stress, which is horrendous please proceed with caution.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I have been educated to understand and welcome criticism which can be used for improvement no matter who one is and what level one is working at in an organisation. we must recognise that none of us are perfect and we need to accept this in ourselves and others instead of feeling pressure of the need to cover this up.

    in good nurse training and post grad management courses one also learns to distinguish between positive and negative criticism and how to accept what is helpful and constructive and then reflect on ways this information can be used for improvement of our own practice and for the benefit of the organisation and how to recognise what is willfully intended destructive and to filter out without being hurt by it.

    if such training was included in all nurse, medical and management training , etc. at undergraduate level perhaps in time this would help to change attitudes and develop a more positive learning climate at work.

    organisations undertaking to provide healthcare are part of the service industry and need to understand their very great and serious responsibility to the public of providing excellent care to patients and striving for high quality customer satisfaction and the best way to monitor this is to encourage, listen to and use feedback from patients and those involved in the care. Their equally strong responsibilities of providing support, good conditions of employment to the staff must also be taken seriously.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • the last sentence above should also include the duty of employers to provide further training for all their staff.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Show 102050results per page

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.