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Advice sought on whistleblowing 'ignored'


Four in 10 people working in the care sector who have sought advice on whistleblowing have tried to raise their concerns with management, which were either denied or ignored, research has revealed.

Independent charity Public Concern at Work, which operates a whistleblowing advice line, conducted the research into the problems faced by whistleblowers in the care sector.

The results of the study show that in 40% of cases managers failed to act on problems raised by whistleblowers, while 80% of those who called had already spoken of their concerns before seeking advice.

Half of calls taken related to worries over abuse in care, and in 50% of all cases the whistleblower was addressing issues that were known to other staff members, who were too scared to speak up .

Acting director of Public Concern at Work, Cathy James, said: “Our research demonstrates there are systemic deficiencies that prevent care workers from speaking up effectively to protect vulnerable adults. This must be addressed. We have to ensure that every worker who is in a position to speak up is encouraged and supported. Whistleblowers should not be lone voices in the workplace. This is all the more important when safeguarding those who cannot speak up for themselves.

“We are calling for the proactive promotion of good whistleblowing arrangements and the support available for whistleblowers. This includes training and guidance for managers on how to handle concerns, employers providing feedback when responding to concerns, a greater awareness of rights, zero tolerance of whistleblower victimisation, and clearer guidance about how and when to approach relevant authorities.

“Many of these steps are straightforward and cost effective. Employers can do so much more to protect vulnerable adults by making it safe for care workers to question wrongdoing and malpractice.”

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Readers' comments (5)

  • Just 4 in 10??? Yeah right, how many people were asked exactly? I know I wasn't! I'd put good money on the fact the true number is a lot higher!

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  • Whistleblowing will always be a problem, how can you voice your concerns about others not caring or not doing their jobs when they are usually friends with the management who are usually the ones that interview and give them the job in the first place. The people who speak out are usually the ones who are seen as difficult and stand less chance of being promoted. As I see it this is a no win situation however we as nurses should speak up for those who are vulnerable that includes patients and colleagues

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  • Here we go again with Public Concern at Work now. Ignore the fact that this approach has not worked and will apparently never work. Keep sending out the same old hackneyed phrases like the other organisations. It’s all down to training and robust systems they say! As the people above have said in their comments, we know it just can’t work and at CAUSE (Campaign Against Unnecessary Suspensions and Exclusions UK), sadly, we hear people’s devastating stories. In the last 8 years, we have seen no improvements in the situation and with 90% of respondents in a recent Nursing Times poll saying they are regularly short staffed, the situation is set to become even more difficult for staff.
    The organisations that have dynamic leaders, have systems in place so that concerns can be raised without any acrimony or recrimination. Why not learn from them?
    Why not look at organisations that have very few staff suspensions, to match them with those that abuse suspensions to silence staff. It would be a bit like failing schools who have a dynamic head teacher brought in, to see what needs doing. Of course it would mean that someone would have to start collecting this data, something successive governments refuse to do, presumably for fear of the high numbers they would discover.
    Because these organisations certainly are failing in their duty of care – to patients, relatives and staff who care but who know it is so dangerous to speak out.
    Julie Fagan, founder member CAUSE

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  • The problem is that for managers to take these concerns seriously and act on them will often mean investing money and that is the last thing they want to do!!

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  • My daughter recently won a high court appeal in a detriment case after she blew the whistle in the NHS over patient safety. She lost the original case because the tribunal made an error in the whistle blowing law. Interestingly, days after she lost the case, she was dismissed from the NHS.

    She appealed her detriment case to the high court and not only won, she made a legal precedent - the courts aligned whistle blowing law with all discrimination law, making it much harder for employers to defend.

    The NHS and other companies for many years found a loop hole in the whistle blowing law and have been expolting it for years thats why many whistle blowing cases never succeeded in court or even got to court. Her new legal precedent has changed that - but guess what? The NHS is attempting to appeal this decision and are using tax payers money to effectively ask the court of appeal to overturn the statuary protection my daughters legal precedent now affords the whistle blower.

    After Andrew Lansley Health Secretary promised to strengthen whistle blowing law following the pubic inquiry into Mid-Staffs it appears the right foot dosn't know what the left foot is doing. But Andrew Lansley knows about this NHS organisation attempting to appeal and is doing nothing to stop it in its tracks.

    As for my daughter, she has her unfair dismissal hearing in the begining of May - DISMISSED FOR BLOWING THE WHISTLE.

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