Former whistleblower urges nurses to share their stories of raising care concerns

Staff should put their case forward to be reviewed.
Helene Donnelly

Nurses who feel they have been treated badly after raising concerns about care have been urged to put their case forward for review, as part of an NHS initiative.

Ambassador for cultural change Helene Donnelly. Picture: Neil O'Connor

Former whistleblower Helene Donnelly, who brought more than 100 incidents to light while working as an emergency nurse at Stafford Hospital, said it was 'vital' that nurses shared their experiences of raising concerns.

Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership NHS Trust ambassador for cultural change Ms Donnelly spoke as the health service's so-called National Guardian launched a 12-month trial of her case review process.

Henrietta Hughes is inviting submissions from former and current NHS staff, regulators and Freedom to Speak Up Guardians (FTSUGs).

Findings and recommendations on how to improve the process of reporting concerns will be published, and trusts found to have made mistakes will be expected to draw up an action plan to rectify them.

Come forward

Ms Donnelly said: ‘I would encourage any nurses who feel they have had a negative experience of raising concerns to get in touch with the National Guardian's Office.

‘Equally, I believe it is vital for those who have had positive experiences to share them so good practice can be celebrated and promoted.’

Developing a process for reviewing how concerns of NHS workers were handled was a key recommendation of Sir Robert Francis’ Freedom to Speak Up report, which was published in 2015 amid concerns about lack of transparency within the health service.

Following Sir Robert’s review, FTSUGs were appointed at every NHS trust.

Consistent response process

Ms Donnelly said: ‘I have been in post now for four years and know how difficult it has been to provide a consistent and sustainable response process to those who raise concerns.

‘We have made mistakes that we continue to learn from.

‘Evidence-based good practice is required throughout the NHS for all to adhere to. So I hope the case review process will help to provide information and evidence to influence this.

‘I greatly value feedback from those who have raised concerns via the FTSUG facility, and I see this [Dr Hughes’ trial] as a learning opportunity to constantly improve the process.’

Positive effect

Figures from the National Guardian's Office show that, as of March 2017, FTSUGs have responded to 2,850 issues, 737 of which were related to patient safety.

Dr Hughes said: ‘I want speaking up to become business as usual in the NHS.

‘Staff are already speaking to FTSUGs in their thousands, which shows that they are providing a vital additional channel.

‘While a review won’t change the outcome for them [staff who submit information], the cases and the lessons that they highlight will help create the environment where people are able to speak up safely.’

Further information

Cases for review can be submitted to or click here for more information

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