NHS whistle-blowing policy in Gloucestershire is under review
NURSES and other NHS staff in Gloucestershire will have to follow a new set of whistle-blowing guidelines following a review this year.
It comes after Government warnings against NHS Trusts forming a "defensive culture".
This month's Francis Report into care standards revealed 14 Trusts were being investigated for high death rates.
The investigation followed a highly critical report on the Mid Staffordshire Hospitals scandal, where hundreds of patients may have died from neglect and abuse.
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The boss of one Trust under investigation, Gary Walker at United Lincolnshire Hospitals, has been threatened with legal action for breaking his silence – with a gagging clause written into his contract.
Mr Walker was sacked in 2010 for gross professional misconduct over alleged swearing at a meeting.
NHS whistle-blowing policies in Gloucestershire say safety should be at the heart of all care.
It adds staff have a legal right to raise concerns about safety, malpractice or other wrong doings – without suffering any detriment to themselves.
In the policy, the Trust gives assurances to staff they will not be discriminated against in any way if raising a genuine concern.
A Royal College of Nursing survey in December 2011 said 84 per cent of nursing staff were worried about reprisals if they spoke out against their employer.
RCN regional director Jeannett Martin said: "With ongoing cuts to frontline services and restructures, staff are becoming increasingly overstretched.
"It is vital that they are able to speak up and can be confident that action will be taken on the issues they raise without fear of reprisal."
The ambulance service provider for Gloucestershire, the South West Ambulance Service Trust, also encourages staff to report concerns.
Unison branch officer at the Trust, Shane Clark, said: "Unison aims to work in partnership with management to improve the NHS for staff and its patients.
"Of course, unions often disagree with management on a wide variety of issues.
Dave Smith, director of HR and organisational development at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said the trust's whistle-blowing policy was being reviewed. "We do not use 'gagging' clauses to prevent former employees from speaking out about anything considered to be in the public interest or the interest of our patients," he said.