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22.06.15

Welsh doctors bullied for raising concerns

More than 60% of doctors in Wales have experienced bullying or harassment as a result of raising patient safety concerns, an embarrassing figure for the NHS coming so soon after Sir Robert Francis’ Freedom to Speak Up review.

In a BMA survey of more than 3,000 doctors working in secondary care in Wales, 60.2% of respondents say they have experienced bullying or harassment as a direct result of raising a patient safety concern.

A similar number, 58.6%, said they had raised concerns about patient safety in the workplace in the last three months – and almost 40% say no action has been taken as a result.

BMA Cymru Wales council Phil Banfield said: “It is hugely worrying that [more than] 60% of doctors surveyed are reporting that they have experienced bullying or harassment after raising concerns. This is not the NHS in Wales we aspire to.”

He also said the survey shows that some doctors no longer raise concerns, either because they feel the problem is widely known already and accepted, or that nothing would be done about it.

BMA Cymru Wales, which in October last year called for a full independent inquiry into the NHS in Wales, said the findings provide strong evidence there was a ‘blame culture’.

Dr Banfield added: “The NHS needs to develop a culture that avoids serious concerns developing in the first place. This requires a change in attitude and values in senior management and those with leadership responsibilities, such that raising concerns by staff should be welcomed and positively reinforced so that it becomes routine and everybody’s business to identify and put right early concerns wherever they occur.”

In February Sir Robert published his review into the treatment of whistleblowers in the NHS. It included stories of healthcare workers who suffered poor health and were driven to thoughts of suicide due to the treatment they received after raising a concern.

The review found a significant proportion of health workers are afraid to speak out either because they are afraid of the potential consequences, or because they feel nothing would be done.

Francis said: “The evidence received by the review has confirmed that there is a serious issue within the NHS. This issue is not just about whistleblowing - it is fundamentally a patient safety issue.

“Everyone in the NHS needs to support staff so they have the courage to do the right thing when they have concerns about patient safety. We need to get away from a culture of blame, and the fear that it generates, to one which celebrates openness and commitment to safety and improvement.”

Dr Blanfield said that BMA wanted to work with the Welsh government to create a “culture of support, not blame” and empower staff to make the NHS a better place to work.

A Welsh government spokesperson said: “We expect all NHS organisations to engage continuously with their staff and the public to ensure services are safe, sustainable and meet national clinical standards.

“All NHS Wales staff should be treated with dignity and respect, in line with established policy. All NHS organisations must take action to address any concerns raised by staff in a prompt and timely manner.

“We are pleased BMA Wales is working in partnership with other trade unions and NHS Employers on the development of core NHS values.”

Other findings of the survey include 69% who agree that staff in their unit work longer hours than is best for patient care. A further 84.8% reported long-term unfilled staff vacancies in their workplace.

A recent FOI request from Lib Dem AM for North Wales, Aled Roberts, revealed the scale of staff shortages in the area. It showed that there had been 1,816 complaints from doctors and nurses about the “lack of suitably trained/skilled staff” since 2012, including 255 reports since the start of this year.

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@nationalhealthexecutive.com

Comments

Al   23/06/2015 at 09:28

I had raised issues of NHS performance management organisation in .Yorkshire - NHSE - staff being selected through old boys network, public service posts not being advertised, racial cleansing of team which monitors GP's , lack of women in the commitee and doctors who have ben repeatedly refererd to GMC for unacceptable performance being placed on committee . I was threatened by a member as my FOI had blown the whistle on poor performance , failure to act when raising concerns for patient safety. .where is justice Sir Francis

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