I don’t watch Top Gear, and perhaps my dented and increasingly rusty Ford KA explains why. But I am interested in the Jeremy Clarkson affair because until now he has been one of the “untouchables”.
It is interesting to note that it took several days for the incident to be brought to the attention of BBC managers – and it was Clarkson himself that raised the issue.
Why did it take so long? And why did no one else report it? Do employees of the BBC fear the repercussions of raising concerns against the rich and famous?
“Do employees of the BBC fear the repercussions of raising concerns against the rich and famous? “
Who can blame them when the prime minister is happy to make light of the incident on national TV while voicing concerns that his children will be denied their Sunday night entertainment, and over 600,000 people signing a petition to have Mr Clarkson reinstated.
Over the years I have met “untouchables” in the NHS who were never challenged about their behaviour.
Mr Clarkson’s suspension reminded me of a surgeon back in the early 1980s, who was brilliant at the technical aspects of his job but incapable of conducting a ward round without a temper tantrum. He was known to hit nurses on the head with clip boards if fluid balance charts were not up to date. His ward rounds were miserable and everyone was frightened of him, but his behaviour was excused as the actions of a perfectionist, and he went unchallenged.
What interests me about Jeremy Clarkson is not the future of Top Gear, or even his relationship with the prime minister. I am interested in why the incident was not reported earlier.
“It takes a lot of courage to blow the whistle”
It takes a lot of courage to blow the whistle, particularly when you are challenging people in power. There are numerous blogs on our website that are testament to the implications for staff.
Jennie Fecitt, lead nurse at Patients First, wrote “Seven years ago, as a senior nurse at Manchester Walk-in Centres, I blew the whistle on patient safety issues. I was bullied, victimised and received detrimental treatment from colleagues; my health and family suffered terribly. My NHS employer could and should have done more to protect me as a genuine whistleblower”.
Over two years ago we hoped the Francis report would bring about a change in culture in the NHS, but only yesterday I took a call from a nurse who was in despair about poor care in her workplace. She was too frightened to give her name or place of work, and was even concerned that I might track her call. How terrible that the only person she felt she could approach was a section editor of a magazine.
This is clearly not an isolated case. This year the results of the NHS staff survey revealed that nearly one third of NHS employees still do not feel secure raising concerns about unsafe clinical practice.
There is hope for the future. Sir Robert Francis QC’s new report “Freedom to Speak Out” offers 20 recommendations to support staff to raise concerns, and the Kirkup review presents clear challenges for maternity services.
“Perhaps it is time for a petition supporting those brave individuals who stand up and speak out when something feels wrong”
If the allegations against Jeremy Clarkson are proven he has to lose his job. This will send out an important message to people who think bullying from a position of power is acceptable and should have no consequences.
Perhaps it is time for a petition supporting those brave individuals who stand up and speak out when something feels wrong, whether that is the NHS, the BBC or any other organisation. Bullying cannot be an inevitable part of working life.
Find out about Nursing Times’ Speak Out Safely campaign