Barbara Young, the chairman of the Care Quality Commission, has urged doctors and nurses to be more forthcoming in reporting bad care after the scandal at Stafford Hospital. While it does seem reasonable to suggest that more doctors and nurses should become whistleblowers to expose failures in the health care system, there is not much incentive for them to do so. As Dr. Hamish Meldrum points out, they are sometimes bullied into silence. Just look at what happened to the nurse in Brighton when she secretly filmed the conditions at the Royal Sussex Hospital.
You might say that you can’t draw parallels from the two cases, but who’s to say that things at the Royal Sussex might not have evolved into the same situation at Stafford. The nurse claimed to have gone through the usual channels but she was ignored and had to do something drastic. I’m not an investigative journalist and do not have all the details and cannot verify any claims from any sides. However, it does appear to me to be hypocritical for Ms. Young to call for whistleblowers when one such was recently sacked for doing just that.
Perhaps, Nurse Haywood should not have done any filming secretly. Perhaps, she should have called the BBC in to do an interview and have them do the filming. But then, it would require them getting permission from the necessary authorities, and then, it might not have been such a sensational piece of news. On the other hand, Nurse Haywood’s objective of having the appalling conditions rectified might have been achieved silently. But once it has been glossed over and covered up, will it remain so? Will the quality decline again or will the improvements continue?
So, if Ms. Young wants the silence to stop, what will be the rewards for the whistleblowers? But the problem with rewards is that it may create a situation of witch hunts and secret vendettas. Perhaps, they should start with setting out the appropriate steps for reporting with some sort of paper trail for providing evidence that such steps had been taken. That way, they can identify where the failures occurred. If no evidence exists that problems were reported, then everyone is accountable. Whereas, if reports were made but no one took further measures to rectify the situation, then those at the receiving end of the reports would be held accountable. I’m sure some such measures are already in place, but it makes me wonder, then, where all the problems lie. Is it because of fear of dire personal consequences that prevent many of these people from becoming whistleblowers?