27 April 2016

NurChat nurses sceptical NHS whistleblowing policy will support staff

Everyone working in healthcare simply wants to see the best outcome for the people in their care, but for nurses, it goes beyond that. It’s about fulfilling a professional responsibility to advocate for patients. When safety is compromised or misconduct witnessed, it should be common place to raise concerns accordingly. But it’s not that simple.

No-one sets out to be a whistleblower, it’s simply the only way to get concerns heard and taken seriously in some cases. The repercussions are real and have been well-documented with every high profile story reported in the media. Examples of staff who had to go as far as whistleblowing and then experienced consequences such as bullying and loss of employment are plentiful.

So it’s not surprising then that many nurses are sceptical anything will change as a result of the new NHS whistleblowing policy.

Following a short consultation process, the resulting NHS whistleblowing policy features promising phrases such as ‘you will not be at risk of losing your job’ and ‘you will always have access to the support you need’. The word ‘whistleblowing’ was even considered for its negative connotations during the consultation, which is why the policy title also now contains the phrase ‘raising concerns’.

However, it’s still perceived as just ‘words on paper’ according to one twitter user on a #NurChat discussion recently.

Freedom to Speak up Guardians have been appointed to support staff who raise concerns by ensuring trust policies are followed correctly, but they can also independently review complaints from staff who’ve raised concerns about how they have been treated following raising their concerns. It’s hoped staff with concerns will feel more secure when coming forwards, but opinions shared on #NurChat appear to be quite the opposite.

Overcoming the wide-spread perception that fighting for patient safety leads to negative consequences is not going to be easy or quick. It’s clear many nurses still approach raising concerns with trepidation and anxiety, but also an absolute commitment to fulfil their duty of care to their patients.