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Whistleblowers 'must be protected'
Ward
Speaking out can be a risk
Nurses who blow the whistle on poor standards of care run the risk of threats, intimidation and physical and mental health problems, it is claimed.

Delegates at the Royal College of Nursing's annual congress in Harrogate backed a call for action to protect nurses who speak out.


Everyone should have the freedom and the right to say what they think without fear of persecution

Mandy Leaman, mental health nurse
Mental health nurse Stephen Moore, from South Oxfordshire, said nurses who voiced concerns out about bad practice often found themselves victimised by angry colleagues - sometimes to the extent that they were forced to take their children out of school and switch cars in an attempt to be less recognisable.

Whistleblowing was often seen in a negative light, as "grassing up" or betraying colleagues, and often resulted in huge problems for the person blowing the whistle.

He said: "You can kiss your career goodbye."

Personal account

Mandy Leaman, also a mental health nurse from the South East region, described how speaking out had affected her.

She said it had turned her from a "'competent and confident" nurse manager into a nervous wreck, "sitting in the GP's surgery, begging for anti-depressants".

She said: "I cracked, lost the job and never went back."

Ms Leaman said she eventually recovered with the help and support of friends and some colleagues, and now works for an organisation that offers support to whistleblowers.

"Would I do it again? Probably not, not if I could help it.

"Everyone should have the freedom and the right to say what they think without fear of persecution."

Support

Community psychiatric nurse David Harding-Price called for support for everyone who spoke out about poor standards, and not only nurses.


We have to support all people who blow the whistle or we are going to end up with a third or fourth class NHS

David Harding-Price, community psychiatric nurse
He described how when his son was ill in hospital, the conditions were so disgusting he felt compelled to clean up some of the dirt and send it to the hospital's chief executive.

"We have to support all people who blow the whistle or we are going to end up with a third or fourth class NHS."

Mavis Harris, from Newcastle upon Tyne, agreed that people who spoke out needed more support, but warned against malicious accusations that damaged careers.

She said: "It's important to whistleblow but it's important to protect the innocent as well."

London nurse Stephen Awosunle said: "Whistleblowing must be seen as an opportunity for learning and listening and not for punishment.

"It is a right to voice our views without fear of intimidation."

The resolution was carried with an overwhelming majority.


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