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Hunt accepts all whistleblowing recommendations in ‘principle’

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The health secretary has accepted all the recommendations made by the Freedom to Speak Up review “in principle” and said he would be consulting on a package of measures to implement them.

Jeremy Hunt made a statement to the Commons this afternoon, in response to the publication of the independent review into NHS whistleblowing, led by Sir Robert Francis.

The government-commissioned review, published today, set out 20 principles and an action programme that Sir Robert believes will encourage a more open culture in the NHS that encourages staff to raise concerns.

“The message must go out that we are calling time on bullying, intimidation and victimisation which has no place in our NHS”

Jeremy Hunt

Mr Hunt noted that MPs would be “profoundly shocked at the nature and extent of what has been revealed” in Sir Robert’s report. “There are stories of fear, bullying, ostracisation, marginalisation as well as psychological and physical harm,” he said.

“The only way we will build an NHS with the highest standards is if doctors and nurses who have given their lives to patient care always feel listened to if they speak out about patient care,” he stated. “The message must go out today that we are calling time on bullying, intimidation and victimisation which has no place in our NHS.”

The health secretary argued that the government had “already taken some significant steps to protect NHS staff” regarding whistleblowing.

He cited the enshrining of the right to speak up in staff contracts, amending the NHS Constitution, extending the national helpline to social care staff, and making employers legally responsible if whistleblowers were harassed or bullied by colleagues.

However, he acknowledged “there is more to do” and that he supported the ideas set out in the Freedom to Speak Up report.  

These include asking every trust to identify one member of staff – known as a “freedom to speak up guardian” – that others could speak to if they have particular concerns and who will report directly to the chief executive.

Mr Hunt highlighted that the idea drew on the inspirational work of Mid Staffordshire nurse whistleblower Helene Donnelly, who has pioneered the role at her current trust.

“We will ensure every member of staff… has proper training on how to raise concerns and how to treat people who raise concerns”

Jeremy Hunt

He also said ministers would consult on establishing an independent “national whistleblowing guardian” as a full-time post within the Care Quality Commission to review the most serious cases where concerns were raised about the treatment of whistleblowers.

In addition, he said the government would be legislating to protect former whistleblowers from discrimination when applying for new NHS jobs. “Too often the system has closed ranks against whistleblowers, making it impossible for them to find another job,” said Mr Hunt.

Meanwhile, he said Monitor, the NHS Trust Development Authority and NHS England had agreed a “compact of action” to help whistleblowers find alternative employment, with “detailed arrangements” due to be published later this year.

“Going forward we will ensure that every member of staff, every NHS manager and every NHS leader has proper training on how to raise concerns and how to treat people who raise concerns,” added Mr Hunt.  

He also told MPs that he would be writing to every trust to “underline the importance of a culture where frontline staff feel able to speak up about concerns without fear of the repercussions”.

He ended by saying that a consultation would now take place on the measures set out in the report.

But Mr Hunt stated that “there is no reason” for trusts not to get on with implementing the recommendations “right away, particularly in making sure staff have an independent person they can raise concerns with”.

  • 3 Comments

Readers' comments (3)

  • No mention of protection of whistleblowers in the private sector why is that ?
    When a nurse in the private sector raises a genuine concern about patient care or safety should they not receive the same protection ?

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  • I tried to inform a doctor about his clinical work towards patients and he then bullied and harassed me. In the end Senior partner wrote to GMC about clinical concerns and they did not want to know. The doctor continued to bully harass me PCT did not want to know about his clinical work or his behaviour. I was forced to leave because of one doctor and the fact that nobody has listened to a nurse or a Senior doctor. I would do it again if I had to but half the time you are not listened to or protected.

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  • Anonymous | 20-Mar-2015 11:25 am

    sometimes one needs to examine how one gives that feedback. although professional discussion should be open, honest and respectful dialogue some individuals are not mature enough to accept and deal with constructive criticism to inform their practice and behaviour and need to be pussyfooted around to get anywhere although that is their own problem and not your responsibility. feedback on others poor behaviour also needs to be firmly provided in order to demonstrate to them that in a professional setting involving the safety and care of patients it is unacceptable and must not be tolerated.

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