According to the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-22252425) a survey suggests that about a quarter of nurses who raise alarms about patient safety are warned off by managers. Some whistle-blowers said they were belittled or bullied. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is reported as talking of a ‘climate of fear’. To his credit the Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter has said that those who speak should be listened to and protected from reprisals.
Organisations that do not have open reporting cultures are
NOT safe. A culture of fear is the greatest enemy of safety. It is a
‘no-brainer’ really. If people are frightened of saying something when they see
things that are not right – or even dangerous – then those ‘error traps’ will
remain hidden out of sight, until they cause an accident and somebody gets
Where managers discourage members of staff from reporting
safety concerns they are also doing themselves no favours. They just end up
trying to manage an unsafe organisation that they do not understand. It’s a
good example of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of the king’s new clothes.
This recent survey gives us some information about the way
things are in nursing, but what happens in other professions such as social
care, the police and education? There may be no surveys in these fields but I
think many people do not feel comfortable with whistle-blowing. An experienced
child protection manager recently told a committee of MPs how dedicated members
of her staff lived with “… an ongoing culture of fear … they do fear telling
the truth and losing their jobs. They don’t feel whistle-blowing works.” http://chrismillsblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/a-culture-of-overwork-and-fear.html
article by Amelia Hill in the Guardian powerfully recounts the stories of
some social care practitioners who have blown the whistle and suffered as a
Effectively protecting and safeguarding children requires professionals
and organisations involved to practice safely and to address safety concerns. Organisations
need to make strong clear statements encouraging staff to report their concerns
without fear. Then they must practice what they preach and ensure that staff members
who raise concerns are treated with consideration and respect.