Staff `in Fear of Whistleblowing'

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Byline: By Graeme Whitfield

Thousands of National Health Service workers are afraid to speak up for patients at risk because of reprisals from their bosses, according to a survey published today.

The study, by health union Unison, found that a third of NHS staff who have blown the whistle on patients being mistreated have seen their career suffer as a result.

The survey - which says that many health trusts do not want to know about major problems - comes despite efforts by the Government to make whistle-blowing easier in the NHS.

Last night, a worker who has not worked for two years after highlighting the mistreatment of patients at three Newcastle care homes, said health trusts should no longer be trusted to regulate themselves.

Care worker Tessa Foston said: "From my personal experience, I don't think trusts should govern themselves.

"There should be an external body that acts immediately a whistle-blowing complaint is made."

The Unison report says staff are also frightened to raise concerns about unsafe staffing levels, problems caused by Government waiting lists, bullying and risks caused by other workers. Many health workers also believe their bosses would "rather not be told" if there was a major problem, Unison says.

Ms Foston and colleagues Susan McDonnell and Louise Webb said they were branded trouble-makers by the health trust they worked for after they highlighted problems at care homes in Newcastle.

The three women are now suing the Prudhoe and Northgate NHS Trust - which has since taken over the homes - for damages caused by their battle to highlight the problems.

Ms Foston said: "You have to understand that when people blow the whistle, it's probably because they've consistently brought misconduct to their managers' attention and it hasn't been acted upon at all. …