Amid the current atmosphere of redundancies, recruitment freezes and pay freezes, who has the freedom to care?
The act of whistleblowing sounds pretty negative doesn’t it? It does to me. I have images of snippy conversations, back stabbing and school ground bullying. Looking at the comments placed on Nursing Times’ news story ‘NHS must promote ‘honest culture’ to maintain quality of care’, I’m probably not far wrong.
Last week the NHS National Quality Board warned that an ‘honest and open culture’ was needed in order to guarantee quality patient care. They said it was every professional’s ‘duty’ to speak up if they witnessed bad practice.
But amid the current atmosphere of redundancies, recruitment freezes and pay freezes, who has the freedom to care?
Many of the comments attached to last week’s news article reported nurses suffering the consequences of speaking out. Suspensions and disciplinaries seemed rife. It wasn’t very encouraging.
- “As a student nurse, I raised some concerns regarding patient care and now face a disciplinary at university.”
- “My life and passion has been destroyed, but this does not stop me from warning my fellow human that ‘whistle-blowing is injurious to your health and well-being.’”
- “Until staff are kept safe, they are committing professional suicide to speak out.”
And with so many stories of whistleblowing gone wrong, and little evidence of subsequent improvement to quality of care, who really has the motivation to report bad practice? Is it worth it? I definitely wouldn’t want to risk my job, but at the same time if I saw something that was seriously wrong and affected patient well-being I hope I would be driven to do something about it.
To facilitate improvements to the quality of patient care I don’t think it’s just a case of nurses being able to voice their concerns anonymously. Maybe the NHS needs more focus on team work rather than pointing out individual black sheep. In other careers it’s often the case that if something goes wrong, the team as a whole deal with the consequences. I know it’s a world apart, but take sporting teams, a missed goal or an inopportune foul and the whole team has to shoulder the results together.
Saying that, should good nurses be held accountable for the faults of their colleagues? Maybe not. But surely they should be held accountable for their own. The NMC guidance on professional conduct says nurses should have good character and must be ‘honest and trustworthy’. Maybe this could translate to owning up to your own mistakes in order to encourage others to own up to theirs.