Jeremy Hunt announces plans to end NHS 'cover-up culture'

Nurses should be given 'credit' for being honest about their errors, says health secretary


Health secretary Jeremy Hunt today (Wednesday, 9 March) announced a raft of measures to end 'the cover-up culture in the NHS' and improve safety and transparency in the health service.

He has recommended that nurses who are facing Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) hearings should be given 'credit' for being honest and apologising for their mistakes and those who try to cover up their errors should receive more serious sanctions.

Mr Hunt used a speech at the Global Patient Safety Summit in London to propose further reforms designed to ‘unshackle [the NHS] from a quick-fix blame culture and acknowledge that sometimes bad mistakes can be made by good people’.

Included in the plans was the offer of legal protection for whistleblowers who report errors at their workplace and the creation of a new independent organisation called the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch.

NHS Improvement, the new regulatory body for the NHS, will ask all trusts to publish a charter for openness and transparency and hospital trusts will be made to publish estimates of their own avoidable mortality rates.

Nurse Helene Donnelly, who gave evidence to the inquiry into failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, told RCNi today that she welcomed anything 'in principle' which 'removes the culture of nurses being too afraid to speak out'.

But, Ms Donnelly, now the ambassador for cultural change at the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership NHS Trust, added: ‘However, I do wonder how exactly the government will implement this plan?

‘In these situations people should speak the truth – not because someone expects them too – but because it is "just a normal part of the job".

‘I guess we will have to wait and see how truly effective this will be.’

The NMC has been approached for a response. 

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