Make safety concerns information public, says RCN

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) today said the public should be able to view a list of NHS workers’ concerns about patient safety

The call comes as the College reveals that whistleblower nurses have been raising serious concerns about patient safety each week for the past year.

Through its ‘Raising Concerns, Raising Standards’ hotline, the RCN has heard from nurses who have fears over patient care at their Trusts. The  line was intended for use only as a last resort for nurses who were worried about raising concerns with their Trust or who had exhausted all internal procedures.

Calls to the hotline reveal that nurses are frequently concerned about having insufficient time available to complete work safely, and about serious understaffing affecting patient care.

Since the beginning of the year, nurses have increasingly said they are worried about decisions driven by financial concerns – something that is likely to become more acute as Trusts begin their drive to find £15 - £20 billion of savings by 2014*.

As a result of nurses’ fears and to drive up standards, the RCN is calling for Trusts to be compelled to hold a register of staff concerns and make the themes of these available to the public. The College is also urging Trust boards to prioritise patient safety through the coming financial period and to hold regular board-level reviews of staff concerns.

RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary, Dr Peter Carter, said:

It is deeply worrying that not a week goes by without a nurse calling in with serious concerns. It is a sad indictment of the pressure nurses find themselves under that any nurse says they have insufficient time available to complete work safely. Coupled with concerns over financially-driven decisions, it is more important than ever for patient safety that staff concerns are acted on promptly. To drive up standards we believe that Boards should hold a register of concerns and that these must be made available to the public.”

The RCN hotline was launched at Congress 2009 as a survey of 5,000 nurses revealed the majority (78 per cent) said they would be concerned about victimisation or a negative effect on their career if they were to report concerns to their employers. Despite this, nearly two-thirds (63%) of nurses had raised concerns about patient safety with their employers but more than one in three (35%) said no action was taken.

RCN advisors have been working with nurses and their Trusts to act on all the calls received to the hotline. The majority of concerns were raised by staff nurse grades. Three quarters said that the staffing mix was inappropriate in the environment they were concerned about and where there was understaffing, eight in ten (84 per cent) of the vacancies had been vacant for more than three months.

Dr Carter added:

We launched our hotline to make sure that staff could raise concerns they had without fear of victimisation and with the confidence they would be acted on. The fact is we should never have needed to do this - all healthcare staff should be confident that their concerns over failures in patient care will be heard. This is why we are calling for politicians to stand up for staff who speak out.”

Source: ©RCN

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