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Fear of victimisation stops nurses whistleblowing, says NMC research


Nurses have asked the Nursing and Midwifery Council to spell out how whistleblowers will be protected from reprisals.

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Research for the NMC has found the fear of being victimised after blowing the whistle is a major barrier to nurses and midwives reporting problems.

The research was commissioned as part of a consultation on draft guidance for raising and escalating concerns.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Roughly two thirds thought someone following the draft guidance would still face barriers.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An NMC spokeswoman said the feedback had been “invaluable” and it would report on how the draft guidance had been changed after it was published.


Readers' comments (9)

  • The picture you have used for this story is Howard Catton who works for the RCN...not the NMC !!!

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  • I supported and helped 2 colleagues and the police when they blew the whistle on our manager who had been stealing thousands of pounds from vulnerable elderly residents. We were all hounded out of our jobs and had our lives ruined. This woman was charged and went to prison but our senior managers still did not thank any of us. I would do the same again and will never ignore bad practice, but attitudes and managers actions HAVE to change. We all experienced victimisation, bullying, intimidation, and labelled trouble makers. To say these concerns are a 'significant barrier' is an understatement!

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  • I'm afraid that the draft guidance will make littlle difference, as long as we have NHS managers, Human resource staff, and some union reps prepared to lie their way through policies and procedures. I raised concerns about bullyng, breaches of child protection guidelines, health & safety, and basic hygiene.
    Before long, I was put on Special Leave AKA "Suspended". I used the grievance procedure, but abandoned it when the investigating manager asked me if I understood how serious it would be for me if it could be proved that I was lying!!! Strangely enough my union rep, sitting by my side did not hear him saying that !!!.
    They certainly do have ways of discouraging staff from reporting concerns.

    I took the Trust to an Employment Tribunal,but one week before the hearing I was awarded a financial settlement to settle out of Tribunal.

    Sadly this is still happening to conscientious nurses. Nothing was learned.

    Intimidation, victimisation and stigmatisation are alive and well.

    Does this sound familiar to other readers?

    Kathleen White Edinburgh

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  • Well done Kathleen for standing up and being counted. I personally know how difficult that is.

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  • I reported bad practise and neglect and was sacked after a two and a half year investigation. I had a 14 year unblemished service with Health Care Trust I worked in. The NMC threw the case out with "no case to answer". We are presently at Tribunal now. I now have the evidence in writing and signed for by my former colleagues which proves that a patient was terribly neglected. The NMC are aware of everything I have gone through but this does not give me my job back. I have lost the one true love of my life which was my nursing, all because I followed my code of professional conduct, DOH Legislation, POVA guidelines and Adult with Incapacity Legislation, while the people responsible for the neglect of a patient are still in post and still have their careers intact. Something is not right with this.

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  • It seems it is always the ones who report bad practice that come off the worst. You are right - it IS wrong, and unless something changes more people will ignore bad practice for fear of their jobs. Your conscience is clear but that obviously does not put food on the table or keep a career intact.

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  • I agree with the above..I reported concerns which were not dealt with,matters became worse,was also given veiled threats,followed and watched.Again reported concerns.As a result, internal investigation held,BUT,no evidence found,yet numerous reports made by others.These initialed reports were then given to the accused perpetrators.I was in effect demoted,told my 'Standards were too high'.Line managers had no understading of NMC code practice.I was asked by managers if I would do the same again,I told them I would.I now feel I am being watched and judged.Now.who came out worse?!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Whistleblowing;Raising concerns------we are told and shown the detailed policies and procedures to enable this,whilst informed we will recieve support under these circumstances;we follow our NMC Code of Practice and Conduct,as this is necessary and expected.....though where is the true support? It is non-existent.
    Through experience,the perpetrator and management are the only people who are supported--or protected!!!

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  • I would urge nurses to be cautious when raising concerns. We are suppossed to be supported and protected through these types of procedures but that only happens if the Trust involved follow procedure.
    I raised concerns about a manger who was carrying out private work during NHS time and encouraging other staff to do this, often offering payment as a bribe. The whole work ethic within the team was also completely unprofessional.The manger and the secretary were carrying on their affairs during work time, using the anual conference as a "dirty weekend", there was little adherance to trust policies and no one to peer review or maiantain standards within the work place. I was unaware that the senior manager was aware of the situation so when I reported that I was unwilling to take part in fraudulent activity, i was not supportted at all. The RCN tried to help but advised me not to continue when I found other employment. The manger was allowed to continue to bully and harrass staff to the point where I went off sick and then left the service. I have now had to take a job on a lower grade which will also affect my pension. The manger and secretary are still in post and are still carrying out their activities despite another memeber of staff comming forward and reporting her concerns also. The worst thing about this situation is that patients were completely short changed and not given the service which they deserved. It's about time that implementaion of external support becomes an automatic part of raising concerns. My biggest tip, stay strong and get support from where you can.

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