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Nurse whistleblowers silenced, survey shows

A quarter of nurses who raise concerns about patient care are being silenced according to a new survey. 

Despite the inquiry into the failings at Mid Staffordshire hospital, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) survey showed many nurses are still living in a culture of intimidation. 

The survey of 8,262 nurses found that 45% of nurses who raised concerns said their employer took no action.  

Around the same amount (44%) said worries about being victimised would make them think twice about whistle blowing. 

“These responses illustrate that despite the recent attention which has been drawn to the importance of whistle blowing, many nurses are still experiencing a culture of fear and intimidation if they try to speak out,” said RCN chief executive Dr Peter Carter. 

He added: “One of the key lessons from the Francis report was that frontline staff must feel confident that they can raise concerns about patient safety without fear of reprisals.”

Of the nurses who had raised concerns, nearly half (46%) had done so in the last six month, and nearly one in ten nurses (8%) raised concerns in the last week. 

Just under half (48%) of the concerns were about staffing levels, and more than one in give (21%) were about patient safety. 

Yet many nurses (65%) seemed unaware that their organisation had a whistleblowing policy, with over a third (37%) unaware that there is legal protection for employees who raise concerns. 

Dr Peter Carter said: “Staff know what is safe for their patients and what is not. 

“However, they cannot raise concerns if they feel unsure about what their employer's policy is or what the repercussions will be.” 

The RCN runs a dedicated whistleblowing hotline for its members and has also recently updated guidance on raising concerns.