Whistleblower Says There's Little NHS Culture Change

A Key Figure Has Cast Doubt On Government Efforts To Encourage Whistleblowing

19.03.2014

The key whistleblower that helped alert managers about poor care at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust has claimed not enough is being done to encourage people to follow her example.

Helene Donnelly, who was at the centre of the Stafford Hospital incident where reports about the horrific care of patients - many of whom went without water for days at a time and struggled to receive even basic care - told the Commons Health Select Committee that progress has been too slow.

The former nurse, who is now employed as an ambassador for cultural change at a nearby NHS Trust, said: "I think there's a shift beginning and the very fact we're sitting here today is demonstrating that fact.

"But when it filters down to the frontline staff, I think no, there's been very little change. There's a greater awareness now in terms of raising concerns and perhaps staff understanding their responsibility to do so. But understanding that and doing it are two very different things."

Cathy James, chief executive of whistleblowing charity Public Concern at Work, blamed an over reliance on ruthlessness and targets, stating that there has been a distinct move away from patient-focused care in the UK.

Whistleblowing has repeatedly been highlighted as a priority for the Department of Health and ministers are keen to see people who reveal poor levels of care rewarded rather than be treated as "snitches".

As part of this effort, it was announced earlier this Parliament that a helpline for NHS whistleblowers would be extended to social care services.

Mark Goldring, chief executive of Mencap, said this will assist the government in increasing the number of informants across the public sector.

Social care operations in the UK have been consistently under fire in previous months, as the Daniel Pelka and Baby P abuse cases uncovered widespread negligence among a number of local authority child welfare units - many of which have since seen extensive management changes and reshuffles.

Expert Opinion
“One of the key findings of the Stafford Hospital Public Inquiry was that more support needs to be given to help whistleblowers express concerns to prevent patient safety being repeatedly compromised.

“Frontline staff are key to this and it is hugely important that they are able to flag concerns either within their Trust, or to an independent watchdog, and are given reassurance that the matter will be investigated thoroughly without repercussions coming back to haunt them.

“We believe a full statutory Duty of Candour will help provide NHS staff with the facilities and backing to support whistleblowing and help to secure the cultural change that is needed for an open, transparent NHS that shares best practice and learns from mistakes.”
Julie Lewis, Partner