Nurses have asked the Nursing and Midwifery Council to spell out how whistleblowers will be protected from reprisals.
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The research was commissioned as part of a consultation on draft guidance for raising and escalating concerns.
The NMC surveyed 56 organisations and 395 nurses. Many expressed fears about the implications for individuals of raising concerns, particularly the risk of victimisation, being stigmatised as a “troublemaker”, bullying or intimidation.
The research says these concerns are a “significant barrier” to potential whistleblowers, especially those in small workplaces.
One anonymous employer surveyed by the NMC listed the risks to whistleblowers as: “Ostracism by colleagues, isolation, distress, and subtle and not-so-subtle undermining of the individual.”
Staff responding to the consultation asked for this to be acknowledged in the NMC’s guidance and for more explanation of how it would support those who “experience reprisals”.
Roughly two thirds thought someone following the draft guidance would still face barriers.
A nurse who took part in the survey took annual leave to attend an NMC focus group on the matter because “she felt that just by people knowing she had attended an event on raising concerns [could] make people suspicious that she had an issue to raise”.
An NMC spokeswoman said the feedback had been “invaluable” and it would report on how the draft guidance had been changed after it was published.