NHS staff call whistleblower line as bosses '˜ignore issues'

NHS staff are turning straight to a 'whistleblowing' hotline because they are being ignored when they raise issues with their bosses, a new report out today has indicated.
Use of an NHS whisteblowing hotline is on the rise. Picture: TSPLUse of an NHS whisteblowing hotline is on the rise. Picture: TSPL
Use of an NHS whisteblowing hotline is on the rise. Picture: TSPL

Fewer NHS staff bother to go to managers in the health service because nothing gets done, the evaluation of the NHS Scotland Confidential Alert Line suggested.

Some staff have said they are victimised if they raise concerns over patient safety.

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The hotline was launched in 2013 and aimed to improve hospital safety after hundreds of incidents of concern, including more than 100 deaths, came to light.

It comes after a whistleblower recently exposed the fact that A&E staff at St John’s hospital in Livingston were wrongly recording the waits faced by patients, which made it easier to meet national NHS waiting times targets.

The latest evaluation of the hotline’s work in the six months from February and July last year indicate just 17 callers got in touch with the hotline. Although this was up slightly on the previous six months, it compares with 73 calls in the opening half-year after it was launched.

The latest report said: “In many cases individuals are contacting us because they have already raised their concern and feel it is being ignored and would like further advice on options for escalation or they feel they have experienced victimisation due to raising an issue.”

Of the total 17 public cases, seven callers had already raised their concern before contacting the Alert Line,” the report stated.

“This is in keeping with general trends we have seen in previous reports and largely reflects the majority of calls we receive to the advice line generally,” the report added.

Patient safety was the “predominant concern” raised with the alert line. This has been a consistent trend across the six-month reports provided over the past three years, the report added. A number of callers also got in touch in 2017 with concerns about abuse of a vulnerable person.

But the report said there has been a “decrease in the number of staff who had reported their concerns before contacting the alert line compared with the previous report.”

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Of the seven individuals who had already raised their concern before contacting with the hotline, three stated their concern had been ignored and only one said their concern had been denied.

“Callers can seek advice from us even where concerns are admitted, for instance if they do not know how the concern is then resolved or if they are at risk of victimisation,” the report said.

Four of the calls from staff who worked with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, while three came from other health boards in Scotland.

The hotline was launched in 2013 after more than more than 300 reports into the most serious incidents in Scotland’s hospitals in 2011, including 105 deaths, were published by the BBC, and after the Francis Inquiry, which uncovered failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust in England.