Mids Staffs Failures 'Highlight Need For NHS Whistleblowers'

NHS Staff Must Speak Up On Poor Care, Says Sir Robert Francis QC


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Failures at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust highlight the importance of whistleblowers in the health service, according to the man who led two inquiries into issues at the trust.

Sir Robert Francis QC is now conducting the Freedom to Speak Up Review into the issue of NHS staff flagging up instances of poor patient care and is urging employees to share their experiences.

Commissioned earlier this year by health secretary Jeremy Hunt, the independent report seeks to recommend the best ways to support staff in raising concerns about poor-quality care.

Discussing the review, Sir Robert said the NHS needs to create a culture in which any employee who has concerns will automatically feel the need to report it. He described this as an environment in which "concerns are listened to and acted upon".

Pointing to the case of Mid Staffordshire, the QC said the public inquiry demonstrated the "appalling consequences for patients" when NHS workers choose to close ranks.

The trust has been at the centre of a major scandal, with reports indicating that substandard care at Stafford Hospital between 2005 and 2008 led to the deaths of as many as 1,200 more patients than would be expected at a hospital of that type.

"We need to hear from as many people in the NHS as possible, so we can learn more about what we need to do to support staff to raise concerns, and support the NHS to listen to them," Sir Robert explained.

Earlier this month, he spoke about the issue in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph and warned that every time a whistleblower is treated badly - or feels they have been - it will inevitably dissuade many others from speaking out in future.

In Wales, the Health and Social Care Committee, which has been looking into the culture of complaint handling in hospitals, recently said urgent steps need to be taken to ensure staff can report failures in care without fear of retaliation, no matter how small or large the concern is.

Expert Opinion
An open and transparent health service where staff are confident they will be supported when raising concerns about patient care and safety is a positive step. Developing a culture among staff that incidents need to be reported and resolved would be a welcome change in the NHS.

“Patient care should always be the top priority and it is vital staff with experience and knowledge of failings or poor standards come forward to report issues. This process will lead to improved care for all patients and a better health service.

“All too often we have seen cases where problems have not been reported in a timely fashion and have led to patients suffering poor quality care and treatment. These failings can have devastating consequences for patients and it is vital the NHS takes steps to encourage reporting from staff and implements measures to ensure the issues raised are corrected immediately.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner