NHS whistleblowers who highlight poor standards of care are being ignored, bullied or even intimated, according to an independent review published today.
The review – ‘Freedom to speak up?’ was conducted by Sir Robert Francis QC, who led two major inquiries into failures at Mid Staffordshire NHS foundation trust. Its aim is to create an open and honest reporting culture in the NHS.
Undertaken during August and September 2014, the government commissioned review found “shocking” examples of health workers being afraid to blow the whistle about poor patient care and safety failures in the NHS.
The review provides independent advice and recommendations designed to make it easier for workers to raise concerns in the public interest and pave the way to establishing an open culture to improve the quality and safety of patient care:
Key recommendations include: (i) appropriate action should be taken when concerns are raised by NHS workers; (ii) where NHS whistleblowers are mistreated, those mistreating them will be held to account; (iii) the review will consider independent mediation and appeal mechanisms to resolve disputes on whistleblowing fairly; and (iv) the review will engage closely with individual NHS workers who say they have suffered detriment as a result of raising legitimate concerns, as well as with employers, trade unions, professional and system regulators and professional representative bodies.
“Staff who are not supported can suffer hugely,” said Mr Francis. “I’ve heard some frankly shocking stories about staff whose health has suffered, and in rare cases who’ve felt suicidal as a result of their perception of them being ignored or worse.”
Mr Francis has confirmed that the review had received stories and experiences from more than 600 people and that around 19,000 had got in touch via an online survey.
More information can be found at: www.freedomtospeakup.org.uk