DAUK on LBC radio: our whistleblowing survey revealing an unacceptable level of bullying and harrassment

DAUK’s Dr Jenny Vaughan on LBC radio speaking to James O’Brien about the results of our Whistleblowing questionnaire with Whistleblowers UK.

Jenny said:

[00:00:27] “It wasn’t just doctors, who replied. About 25% of all the people who applied were nurses. And we had a full range of healthcare professionals, although it’s quite right that most of them are doctors.

These are people who genuinely try the right channels. They were raising concerns. They went to the people who should have listened to them, and they felt that they couldn’t raise a concern or they weren’t listened to. And if you have a transparent culture of reporting and if people feel free that they can speak up on safety concerns. It saves lives. This is about making patients safer and making staff safer. It’s not about pointing fingers.

It’s about patient safety. Now, the other thing I just want to briefly say about this survey. Was this a self-selecting survey? In a sense, it was. But what was very interesting is that 50 percent of the people that replied did not report problems in this area. So there was actually quite a level of balance. Of the 50 percent of people who said there were problems, thirty percent of those said that they felt very bullied and harassed.

So this shows worrying levels of bullying and harassment about an issue which, as we approach a pandemic, is entirely the opposite way of how we should be proceeding.”

She went on to highlight that there was some good practice highlighted in the survey but that the bad practice was not just in hospitals but GP practices and care homes too.

[00:03:16] “You only need, as you know, yourself, one to two people to be ignored for a crisis to be potentially covered over. The only way you stop that happening and keep people safe, staff and patients, is if you actually say, please, any problems, speak up. We’ll deal with it in the right way.

And yet that’s how you keep people safe. If you’re a patient, you know, many people listening to the show, they all may have gone into hospital. They may have relatives in hospital. Do you want to go into a hospital and meet staff who are free to speak up about concerns? And there is an open way of dealing with that? Or do you want to go into hospital or to be in the community and be dealt with by an organization where people are scared. I ask you, where would you like to be looked after? And I’ll tell you, the safest place is always the place where people can raise concerns.”

Speaking about some of the individual concerns she said:

[00:004:56] Many who contacted us were black and ethnic minority doctors. Now, recently we have found out that they are at excess risk of suffering, not only severe detriment, but death. You know that we’ve lost over 150 health care workers, even though we entirely accept that not all those would have been because of their work. Now, one of them was hauled off a ward and given a half an hour dressing down saying, why are you asking for more PPE? He said to me, I am in fear of my job. You know, he’s not actually been sacked, but he is in fear of his job. Other people have been turning up to work in PPE that they source themselves and been told to leave the shift because nobody else is wearing what they’re wearing.

Now, of course, you have to have a standard, but how that should have been handled is “How can I support you? What is your fear? What are you worried about?” Instead, it’s the entire opposite. And people are looking at their colleagues on ITU, going off sick. How are they supposed to behave? Fear is toxic.

You can never have a safe way of looking after people if you’ve got staff working in fear.