Andrew George MP – Government should embrace “whistleblowers” to counteract falling standards in NHS hospitals
Andrew George MP, member of the Health Select Committee, has today called on Government Ministers to do more to encourage and protect NHS staff who blow the whistle on failures to maintain clinical or care standards in NHS hospitals.
Mr George and his colleagues recently produced a report on the work of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) prior to the recent inspections which were ordered by the Health Secretary and which are reported on today.
The CQC report found that a fifth (20%) of all NHS hospitals inspected fell short of the most basic care they were giving to elderly patients.
Mr George said: “The CQC should provide a protected open door to NHS whistle blowers. It is only by encouraging staff to speak up that poor standards can be stamped upon. At the moment, nurses and care workers fear the consequences of speaking out.
“I had also recommended that the CQC monitor nursing and care assistant staffing levels on NHS wards and in care homes. Often care standards fall when managers expect wards to be managed with fewer nurses and a more rapid turnover of sicker patients.
“The Government should enhance the status of nurses and better differentiate between trained nurses and untrained care workers – a confusion which only exacerbates the problem.
“Nurses should be given more executive and clinical responsibilities so that they are not, as they often are, overruled by bed managers and accountants.
“I note that a lot of the reaction to the CQC report is focussed upon criticisms of nurses and the nursing profession generally. Clearly, where poor clinical standards or an uncaring attitude is identified then this should be stamped upon. However, much of the evidence indicates that problems on wards are largely created as a result of a shortage of nurses rather than poor nursing.
“It is suggested that, where standards fall below what the law allows, the nurses themselves should be legally culpable, then, by implication, managers should be culpable where it can be demonstrated that nursing staff complement on the ward is insufficient.”