NHS staff that spoke out about care abuses in the 1970s were branded “troublemakers”, an influential nurse has said in the wake of allegations that Sir Jimmy Saville was able to molest young hospital patients over many years.
It was alleged last week that nurses advised young female patients to “pretend to be asleep” when Sir Jimmy was visiting their hospital for volunteer work or charity fundraising.
At least four other women, including a former nurse, also gave TV or radio interviews about experiencing or witnessing abuse by Sir Jimmy in either Stoke Mandeville or Leeds General Infirmary.
Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust and Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust, which runs Stoke Mandeville, both said they were “shocked” by the allegations and were helping police with investigations. Neither has any record of complaints about Sir Jimmy’s behaviour.
Sir Stephen Moss, the nurse who became chair of Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust after it was hit by scandal, said: “The culture in the NHS was even worse back then [in the 1970s] than it is today. In those days there was no such thing as a whistleblower. People who spoke out were just labelled as troublemakers.
“If the organisational culture isn’t there to support staff they won’t [speak out]. From my experience at Mid Staffs, one of the most tragic things was that professional clinical staff didn’t speak up,” he told Nursing Times.
A range of organisations, from regulators to unions, have signed up to a charter in support of clinicians that raise concerns about care. The document was launched yesterday by NHS Employers.