Hunt Outlines Whistle-Blowing Service To NHS Staff

Health Secretary Promises NHS Staff Whistle-Blowing Will Be Made Much Easier

26.11.2013

UK government Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt has written a message to NHS staff telling them about new whistle-blowing changes.

Whereas before, clauses in contracts often prevented outgoing staff from revealing poor care or negligence, this has been overhauled and those currently employed in the service will also have the chance to raise concerns over high death rates, poor cleanliness or other concerns.

The Department of Health currently funds a freephone number that gives free, impartial and confidential advice to people looking to raise their concerns.

But the fact that many people do not know this number exists is problematic and it is likely Mr Hunt will push the 08000 724725 number in future messages to healthcare staff, as whistle-blowing is key among his strategies in preventing incidents like those seen in Colchester or Mid Staffordshire from happening again.

The secretary of state also said that while some bosses may discourage employees from speaking out, this should not be the case and executives need to do all they can to encourage an open forum for doctors, nurses or administrators to raise their concerns.

One of the main cases pointed to by Mr Hunt in his drive for new whistle-blowing policies is Helen Donnelly, a nurse in A&E at Stafford Hospital who was bullied and harassed when she raised concerns over poor care.

Mr Hunt concluded by thanking workers for their help in securing safer A&Es in the run-up to the winter rush.

"I was [on a recent hospital visit] struck by two things: just how much pressure everyone is under in the run up to winter. And secondly how challenging it is for hard-working staff when problems in the NHS are hitting the headlines so frequently.

"Our NHS is doing nearly one million more operations every year on broadly the same budget ... so let me finish with a big thank you."

Mr Hunt has faced calls for extra funding to be given to A&Es by critics and opposition activists, as experts predict services will be strained by high demand.

Expert Opinion
One of the key issues raised by recent investigations into the worrying cases seen across the NHS in recent years has been the need for a duty of candour to be in place – a move which would ensure vital transparency and mean patients and their families have a clear understanding of the quality of care at NHS Trusts.

"A key part of making certain that patient safety is a priority is ensuring that those with concerns over standards are able to come forward to raise them safe in the knowledge that they will be handled in the right way.

"This work to promote existing channels is hugely important and we hope that it provides reassurances to medical professionals that their voices can be heard. We hope that this move will lead to more openness over issues within the NHS and mean any concerns can be investigated and handled as quickly as possible."
Lisa Jordan, Partner