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Whistleblowing fear grips Scottish nurses

More Scottish nurses than ever are being actively discouraged from whistleblowing over patient safety and staffing levels, a survey shows.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) found over a third of nurses (37%) have been told directly not to report concerns this year - up from 24% in 2009.

More than one in eight nurses surveyed (84%) said they would be concerned about victimisation, personal reprisals or a negative effect on their career if they were to speak out against colleagues.

The survey also suggests a problem with employers taking concerns seriously. Over half (55%) said no action was ever taken when they raised issues - up from 38% two years ago.

“It is extremely worrying that nurses are being explicitly told not to raise concerns, particularly after all we have learnt about the consequences of ignoring issues around patient safety,” said RCN Scotland Director Theresa Fyffe.

“We are very concerned that nurses are not being listened to, particularly as we know that over 2,000 nurses have been cut from the NHS workforce in Scotland since September 2009 and that staff are feeling over-stretched and under pressure.  

"In these circumstances, it's more important than ever that they're listened to when they raise their concerns about patient safety and about staffing levels.”

Confidence in employer protection is also shaky, with only 29% believing they would receive support after whistleblowing - down from 43% in 2009.

Progress is being made, however. More nurses are aware of the laws around whistleblowing, (55%) compared to 64% in 2009 who “did not know either way”.

RCN Scotland