Raising concerns: listen to whistleblowers ‘without prejudice’

Nurse Rebecca Wight says her concerns for patient safety were dismissed and is calling for better support for whistleblowers and improvements in training
Advanced nurse practitioner Rebecca Wight speaking on BBC TV's Newsnight

Nurse Rebecca Wight says her concerns for patient safety were dismissed and is calling for better support for whistleblowers and improvements in training

Rebecca Wright speaking on Newsnight
Rebecca Wight speaking on Newsnight Picture: BBC

A nurse who felt persecuted by managers after she raised patient safety concerns about a colleague has called for managers to approach whistleblowing processes ‘without prejudice’.

Concerns were dismissed as a ‘witch hunt’ says whistleblower who experienced anxiety after raising concerns

Advanced nurse practitioner Rebecca Wight alleged patients had come to harm because of a fellow nurse’s practices at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, including that the nurse had changed clinical notes to cover up poor care.

Ms Wight left the Manchester cancer centre in December 2022 – eight years after she joined – following an 18-month battle to convince her bosses to take her concerns seriously. She highlighted the difficulties she faced in a BBC Newsnight interview on 11 September.

Ms Wight told Nursing Standard she was concerned patients were not getting the right care and were being kept at home when they should have been coming into hospital.

She said she could not understand why managers did not listen when she first sounded the alarm in May 2021.

‘I think they thought it was just a witch hunt, that I wasn’t happy about having the nurse in the team. But it wasn’t just me who raised concerns,’ she said. ‘I was met with a complete brick wall. In a virtual meeting I said I thought patients were sicker than they needed to be. My manager folded her arms, put her pen down and dismissed me completely.’

Ms Wight said the experience left her with ‘significant’ anxiety after her colleague, who eventually resigned, raised a grievance and accused her of bullying. Ms Wight is now suing The Christie for constructive dismissal.

Better training is needed to reverse the ‘systemic’ dismissal of concerns

She said whistleblowers not being taken seriously was ‘systemic’ in the NHS and called on managers and clinicians to come together to discuss the ‘experiences, worries and challenges’ of dealing with patient safety concerns.

‘There needs to be training on how to manage people’s concerns, beyond just an online module on the trust’s intranet. It would be good for clinicians and managers to learn together by listening to people’s experiences and looking at case studies like mine to figure out why whistleblowers do what they do,’ she told Nursing Standard.

‘I’d also like to see every manager meeting staff who raise concerns to ensure they come without prejudice or assumptions and with an open mind.’

In a statement, The Christie said it conducted a thorough investigation into Ms Wight’s concerns which identified ‘some errors’ in patient care. It said ‘immediate changes’ were made and additional training, support and clinical supervision put in place, adding that no patient ‘involved in the clinical practice of concern’ had experienced harm.

A spokesperson added: ‘The care and safety of our patients is our priority and we take any clinical concerns raised extremely seriously and ensure our staff know how to speak up and are supported when doing so.’

The government is in the process of strengthening freedom to speak up practices across the NHS.

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