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Whistleblower urges nurses to speak up amid NHS crisis

Nurses need to raise concerns and speak up now more than ever, the nurse who exposed appalling treatment of patients at Stafford Hospital has urged.

Nurses need to raise concerns and speak up now more than ever, the nurse who exposed appalling treatment of patients at Stafford Hospital has urged.

Whistleblower Helene Donnelly was a key witness in the public inquiry led by Sir Robert Francis into care failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust between January 2005 and March 2009.

Patient safety concerns

She spoke out as nearly 30 hospitals in England had to declare a black alert so far in January, meaning patient safety was no longer assured, figures obtained by the Guardian showed.

Ms Donnelly told Nursing Standard that the NHS crisis which has led to the RCN and numerous others demand government action had been brewing for years.

She warned: Its

Nurses need to raise concerns and speak up now more than ever, the nurse who exposed appalling treatment of patients at Stafford Hospital has urged.

Helene Donnelly
Helene Donnelly is urging nurses to come forward in exposing poor care in hospitals
Picture: Neil O'Connor

Whistleblower Helene Donnelly was a key witness in the public inquiry led by Sir Robert Francis into care failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust between January 2005 and March 2009.

Patient safety concerns

She spoke out as nearly 30 hospitals in England had to declare a black alert so far in January, meaning patient safety was no longer assured, figures obtained by the Guardian showed.

Ms Donnelly told Nursing Standard that the NHS crisis – which has led to the RCN and numerous others demand government action – had been ‘brewing for years’.

She warned: ‘It’s a perfect storm – but anything putting patients or staff at risk has to be raised. Nurses are the ‘eyes and ears’ [of an organisation] and can be advocates for patients.’

Ms Donnelly, who was awarded an OBE in 2013, raised up to 100 complaints while working as a staff nurse in the emergency department of Stafford Hospital.

Her witness statement for the inquiry stated she often went home in tears because patients were 'suffering unnecessarily'.

Nurses' duty

Now ambassador for cultural change at Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership NHS Trust, Ms Donnelly works to support staff to raise concerns.

‘At a time like this, there is a real risk people that start becoming desensitised to what is acceptable – just saying “everyone is in crisis” is not the answer,’ she said.

‘We have to keep calm and carry on, but that does not mean bury your head in the sand, or do things that are not acceptable.’

Ms Donnelly reminded nurses raising concerns is a duty embedded in the NMC Code.

‘It doesn’t necessarily mean the problem is going to be fixed straightaway, but there may be things which can be done in the short term.’

Ms Donnelly’s call comes as the RCN released freshly updated guidance for nursing staff on raising concerns in the workplace this week.

Further information:

Updated RCN guidance for nuses on raising concerns.


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