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Health Minister, Dan Poulter, backs Nursing Times' Speak Out Safely campaign


Health Minister Dan Poulter has backed Nursing Times’ Speak out Safely campaign and called on NHS organisations to make a “positive commitment” to staff they would not be disciplined for raising concerns.

Speaking to Nursing Times this week Dr Poulter said some trusts still had “work to do” to support nurses and other NHS staff  who speak out about patient safety issues.

He said: “It is hugely welcome that the Nursing Times is throwing its weight behind the openness and transparency agenda in the NHS. It is something the government is very much committed to.”

Nursing Times launched Speak out Safely in the wake of the Francis report into the scandal of poor care at Mid Staffordshire. The campaign aims for an NHS which encourages people to raise concerns and protects them from bullying or victimisation when they do.

It calls on the government to implement a legal duty of candour on individual staff, as recommended by Robert Francis QC. Mr Francis proposed staff should be required by law to alert their employer if an incident occurred that led to death or serious harm to a patient who in turn should tell the patient or their relatives. Anyone who tries to prevent an individual from exercising this duty of candour would be breaking the law.

The campaign also calls on NHS trusts to make a public pledge not to discipline staff who raise genuine patient safety concerns. Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership Trust became the fourth organisation to make the commitment last week.

Dr Poulter urged all trusts to sign up.

“It’s about trusts making that very positive commitment to all staff,” he said.

He also revealed the government was making efforts to improve the Public Interest Disclosure Act by widening the definition of “worker” to give whistleblowers greater protection under the law.

The government has already committed to introducing a statutory duty of candour on organisations. However, Dr Poulter told Nursing Times he remained cautious about introducing a similar duty on individuals.

He said: “We want to ensure this does not unnecessarily produce a culture of fear which could in time defeat the object of what we want to do.

 “We are working to ensure we close any loopholes in the law that there may be and to make the law protecting whistleblowers stronger.”


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Readers' comments (6)

  • I find it absolutely disgraceful that anyone should even consider it acceptable that staff should be disciplined for raising a genuine concern, what on earth is going on here? A malicious 'concern' or false allegation is a different matter. To raise real and true issues that are or could potentially affect patient care or staff welfare is something that should be done openly and without question.

    If I believe short staffing or inadequate skillmix is affecting the patients or having a negative effect on staff well-being what am I supposed to do, ignore it, say nothing because I am frightened of being bullied - bullying and harrassment has to stop NOW.

    One day these bullies and those who ignore our concerns will be patients themselves.

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  • "One day these bullies and those who ignore our concerns will be patients themselves."

    maybe it is different when you are a private patient?

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  • "Dr Poulter urged all trusts to sign up."

    This from a minister of the bullying, dangerous government which has seen fit to completely ignore the Francis Report recommendations and place the blame and consequences for mid staffs entirely at the feet of nurses.

    Zero credibility mate.

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  • no-one should even have to worry about being 'disciplined' because they tell their manager that the ward is unsafe, it's a ridiculous situation that has been allowed to develop.

    no-one should worry about being disciplined because they can no longer do their job properly due to short staffing, poor skillmix, having to work with staff who wilfully don't pull their weight or unsupportive managers who don't give too hoots about anyone.

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  • What sort of society do we live in where health professionals face being bullied, harrassed or disciplined for telling their managers that they don't think the work environment is safe.

    It is the managers responsibility to ensure safe working conditions, to ensure their patients are well looked after and to ensure their staff can do their job.

    Staff, patients and visitors are not stupid, they can see what is going on, they can see who works hard, who is lazy, who is a good manager and who is not.

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  • all we hear about is staff not being disciplined for raising genuine concerns. when are we going to hear about how the subsequent bullying is going to be dealt with. if I speak to my manager about a genuine concern I have about a member of staff, if that member of staff then bullies me, spreads rumours, tries to destroy my reputation what level of support can I expect.

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