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MPs call for NHS whistleblowing system to be reformed


Health workers should face an investigation if they do not inform the necessary authorities of any concerns they have about their fellow members of staff not carrying out their work properly, a group of MPs have said.

The cross-party health select committee said the health watchdog should have the power to investigate doctors, nurses and midwives who fail to draw attention to poor healthcare being provided by their colleagues.

However, the MPs said that the current NHS whistleblowing system needs to be revised because staff can be deterred from reporting concerns as they may be subject to disciplinary action themselves.

The General Medical Council, the doctors’ regulator, said it was committed to reforming this area so there is less stigma attached to raising concerns over the standard of healthcare.

Stephen Dorrell, the committee’s chairman, said: “This is an underdeveloped part of the regulators’ work. We regard the principle behind this wider obligation as an important safeguard for patients. We’re not suggesting a new doctrine for staff. It’s part of the professional obligation - being aware of the practices around them is in the professional codes.”


Readers' comments (15)

  • Unfortunately here-in lies another example of the threatening and bullying type of behaviour which impacts on the ability of any staff member to report. What is required is a nurturing and supportive approach to raising concerns. This article illustrates that it is people without first hand, front line knowledge of NHS culture that are developing these policies.

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  • Anonymous | 27-Jul-2011 4:28 pm

    well said. i was preparing my comment but cannot make a better and more appropriate one than this so will just second it instead of adding my bit!

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  • We're damned if we do and damned if we don't!!!

    If this wasn't so insidious and worrying I'd swear it was a joke!

    I wholeheartedly concur with the views of Anonymous | 27-Jul-2011 4:28 pm, but this threatening and bullying behaviour is far too endemic for our so called managers and the politicians to even contemplate anything else!

    It's pathetic.

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  • I agree with all of you. How about disciplining all those in the variety of regulatory organisations to whom the Winterbourne Hospital abuse was reported....and who did nothing?! How could I be so silly? None of them are hard-working, vulnerable individuals. Why would anybody want to go after them? It's so much easier to do what has always been done.....Bully Nurses and then blame them.
    As soon as I'm finished posting this, I'm writing to my MP and then Stephen Dorrell. I'm sure it will have no effect, but hey ho.

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  • I know a whistleblower that had to leave their post and the alledged nurse is still in post. Inbetween there were many statements, meetings, costs, unrest, gossip,(not allowed to discuss it as confidential) the whole situation was totally mismanaged. I rest my case.

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  • 'less stigma?!' Do they have any idea? Does the GMC demand accountability by action and omission as do the NMC?
    I agree there needs to be a supportive and healthy response to whistleblowing by management but there also needs to be a firm and zero tolerance on the bear pit responses from staff or colleagues which are too numerous to list. This needs a multiagency response rather than a single line manager response to avoid this. An insistence on several conflict management and counselling trained people in the team not just ticked boxes.
    Bring the humanity back to the staff and you'll see it emerge more fully in patient care.

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  • michael stone

    I heard this committee's report being discussed on R4 - it seemed to stress a professional duty on clinicians to report/challenge concerns, as they were noticed.
    Clearly that is right, but it also needs to address this 'I'm complaining to my bosses, and they may see me as a nuisance' issue - the GMC/BMA seem rather more aware of that, as an issue which needs dealing with.
    Everyone knows the fundamental problem, here: an organisation with a good/constructive 'culture' will respond properly when issues are raised, but an organisation with 'bad' management will avoid dealing with the issues, and persecute anyone who raises them.
    This needs some form of anonymity, for many types of concern - why will nobody actually introduce that ? Just goes around in circles !!!!

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  • "This needs some form of anonymity, for many types of concern..."

    this needs some common sense and not all the complexity you keep bringing to the matter. if you make a complaint you address it at the level of the person creating the problem in the first instance and if possible give them the opportunity to rectify it with any support you are able to offer. if there is no improvement you move up the management chain to the next level and so on and get support from higher up.

    if you make a complaint you take responsibility for it and do not hide behind a mask of anonymity which is cowardly and helps nobody.

    if management and organisational are placing obstacles in the way then those responsible for this obstructive behaviour need education and training in how to deal with complaints and respect the needs of everybody who is affected as well as an attitude change to openness, transparency and support. the problems are unfortunately often at these levels through lack of training, appropriate attitudes and understanding.

    working in the health service you are dealing with human lives. it is not the same as working in a shop or factory with goods or in a hotel where clients are paying for the service and can be refunded if something goes wrong!

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  • Oh dear Anon 28th July. Ignorance is bliss! And if only. You don’t believe the comments above yours but then I suppose it is hard to believe that the person raising the concerns can disappear without trace, to reappear some months later, possibly longer, a shadow of their former selves, chastened and determined to work elsewhere as soon as possible – if they return at all. And now with their reputation besmirched because of course we all think until it happens to us, no one is suspended unless it is serious, they now work under an intolerable load. I so wish it was as easy as Anon above described.
    Julie Fagan, founder member of CAUSE (Campaign Against Unnecessary Suspension and Exclusion UK).

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  • Are we talking about the NHS and a caring learning organisation or the military services?

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