We’re coming up to two years since Sir Robert Francis QC published his report into care failings at Mid Staffs. Unlike many “seminal” and “watershed” reports on the NHS and healthcare more widely, which lie gathering dust having been ignored by those targeted with recommendations, the Francis report has already led to changes in government policy and health service practice.
While Sir Robert was at pains to avoid blaming any individual or group for what he saw as systemic failings, many news organisations laid much of the blame on nurses. It is heartening, therefore, to see that both the government and employers are recognising that the quality of patient care is affected not only by the numbers of nursing staff on duty but also the ratio of qualified nurses to healthcare assistants.
One of the areas the Francis report paid particular attention to was the treatment of staff who raise concerns about care. It recommended better protection and treatment for these people, who have been bullied and discredited in many organisations over the years, often losing their careers and suffering mental ill-health as a result. Unfortunately, the situation has not improved significantly.
Our award-winning Speak Out Safely campaign was inspired by the report; by persuading employers to publicly commit to supporting staff who raise concerns we hoped to contribute to the culture change needed across healthcare. To date, just over 100 NHS organisations in England have signed up to the campaign, along with 35 other organisations. That’s great, but it leaves an awful lot more yet to do so – including the whole of the NHS in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Sir Robert was asked in 2014 to chair an independent review of the treatment of whistleblowers. His report is due to be published early this year, when we will be redoubling our efforts to persuade NHS and independent healthcare organisations to support SOS. Let’s hope that 2015 is the year when the whole healthcare system finally recognises that people who raise concerns should be celebrated and cherished instead of bullied and bankrupted.