12 years ago I would have said yes, we must raise concerns when we have them. It is only fair to patients and colleagues.
In a short space of time, after starting the www.suspension-nhs.org website, I began to realise that it was an extremely dangerous thing to do and counterproductive, because people were silenced and disappeared, almost without trace down some sort of NHS black hole equivalent.
That sounds dramatic I know, but the whistleblower was silenced by false allegations being made against them followed by suspension, with the customary warning not to contact work colleagues or go on to trust property.
It was very effective. A delay before the unsubstantiated allegations were sent in the post – probably by second class post. No hurry here – very demoralising. Then another wait till the investigatory interview, followed by another long wait before a date for a disciplinary hearing was set. The whole thing a kangaroo court travesty of injustice with the whistleblower’s defence ignored.
By this time they are fighting for their professional career and have very little energy left to return to the concerns they tried to raise.
You see, the whole point of needing to whistle blow in the first place is that the managers are not listening, don’t want to listen and may even be friends and protectors of the poor practitioners etc.
If you look at the Patients First website (www.patientsfirst.org.uk) you’ll see a gallery of eminent whistleblowers whose stories make your blood boil, the injustices they have suffered at terrible personal cost on every front – emotional, physical, psychological, relational, and financial for example.
Endless policies have been written and staff even threatened with disciplinary action if they don’t speak up. No action is contemplated against managers who don’t respond, though there are stirrings post Francis report!
No action against the staff who make false allegations.
No actions against investigators who start a search (witch hunt) to find anything they can to add to the charges to justify their suspension/silencing of the staff member,and increasing their distress.
Helene Donnelly who bravely raised concerns at Mid Staffs and who suffered the consequences, was so fortunate to get out before she was silenced. And her heroism has come to light because of the tireless campaign by Julie Bailey and others, to get justice for the many people who needlessly died in that place, also at considerable personal cost to Julie. See www.curethenhs.co.uk
There is a glimmer of light in Terry Dennis’s paper ‘Coping with toxic organisations’ (see www.healthcarealliances.co.uk Information Services) in which he suggests ways of starting to carry colleagues with you when you want to try and change the situation. He warns it is not for the fainthearted and a slow process.
And that’s the problem – people’s homes depend on their incomes and there have been people who have contacted us, who have lost their homes after losing their livelihoods.
A very strange phenomenon is that where whistleblowers are being very effectively silenced at one end of the spectrum, at the other end of the spectrum, where there has been gross misconduct by staff, managers have covered up and protected these practitioners. See https://twitter.com/tomsanguish to follow one such tragic story.
Blow the whistle – definitely not unless the rest of the staff will stand with you and you can get someone to investigate from outside the organisation who actually has the power and the willingness to intervene. Ah, there’s the rub……