COMMENT: It’s time to encourage a more open culture at QA

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When an organisation’s employees feel like they cannot raise problems or make complaints, the alarm bells should be ringing.

If that organisation is dealing with issues that can literally be a matter of life and death, then a reluctance to speak out is of even greater concern.

So we are pleased to report today how Queen Alexandra Hospital at Cosham is encouraging a more open culture among its staff by appointing a new Freedom to Speak Up Guardian.

Jenny Michael wants workers to tell her what’s on their mind, from health and safety, patient welfare and the working environment, to incidents of inappropriate behaviour.

An inspector from health watchdog the Care Quality Commission visited QA Hospital early last year and found nurses and clinical staff felt like they could not voice their worries to line managers.

Now they have someone to go to who won’t judge them and instead will listen to what is bothering them, then support them as they go through a process of raising an issue with management.

She wants to challenge the notion that ‘whistleblowers’ risk affecting their career or daily working life by sticking their heads above the parapet.

Jenny says: ‘In any hospital, mistakes happen and we want to learn from them. We want to develop a “no blame” culture and for people to be confident in raising concerns.’

That may make life uncomfortable for some managers, but we firmly believe the hospital will be a better place as a result.

It’s also good to see she has the full support of the Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust board and chief executive Mark Cubbon. Because this initiative will only work if there is a real willingness from the top to tackle a culture where people have ended up choosing silence over speaking out.