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Hugh Wilkins

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Profile Information

  • First name
    Hugh
  • Last name
    Wilkins
  • Country
    United Kingdom

About me

  • About me
    I think the hub has potential for increasing understanding of the phenomenon of organisational hostility towards staff who have raised patient safety concerns. The fact of reprisals against staff who have spoken up is clearly documented in the 2015 'Freedom To Speak Up' Review, yet the problem continues. Indeed as recently as February 2019 it was reported in a Royal Society of Medicine meeting that there has never been a more dangerous time for frontline NHS staff to consider speaking up in defence of patients. I believe that this has to change, and hope that Patient Safety Learning can play a part in this - in particular through engagement with NHS staff who have been unfairly dismissed after raising patient safety concerns.
  • Organisation
    Currently unaffiliated.
  • Role
    Clinical scientist (unwaged)

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  1. Content Article
    This post is a transcript of an interview on Times Radio Breakfast on 7 September 2023 in which Dr Jane Somerville, Emeritus professor of cardiology at Imperial College, was asked if the Lucy Letby case has uncovered a problem of the difficulties doctors have of voicing their concerns in hospitals. In the interview, Dr Somerville refers to systemic persecution of NHS staff who speak up about patient safety. She goes on to identify the key issues of power; cover-up culture; suppression of complaints/concerns; career-ending reprisals against staff who speak up; and the almost universal failure of employment tribunals to protect whistleblowers. 
  2. Content Article Comment
    You might be interested in the Patient Safety Learning poster accessible via the following link: https://www.pslhub.org/learn/culture/good-practice/organisational-culture-and-patient-safety-poster-r5338/?do=findComment&comment=431 IAEA (The International Atomic Energy Agency) has been credited with coining the phrase 'safety culture', in response to the Chernobyl disaster.
  3. Community Post
    I guess we need to find a way to distinguish between genuine experts and those who, for example, think it is a good idea to give left-over antibiotics to friends. (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/oct/16/therese-coffey-criticised-for-giving-leftover-antibiotics-to-a-friend).
  4. Content Article
    In a previous blog, 'What is a Whistleblower',[1] Hugh drew attention to negative perceptions of whistleblowers in the eyes of some people. A crossword and clues were published on the hub to emphasise how wrong such perceptions are and how damaging they can be, with serious patient safety implications.[2] This follow-up outlines the nature of the journey travelled by some NHS staff who have spoken up and the problems which still exist with NHS whistleblowing culture. It provides a link to an attached file which contains the answers to each clue. The attachment also shows the completed crossword in larger, easier-to-read, format than the small illustration in this blog. There is a further link to companion notes which expand on the answer to each clue. These notes contain more detail about the realities of speaking up. They reinforce the link between hostility towards those who speak up and an ongoing series of patient safety scandals.[7-21]
  5. Content Article
    This blog is prompted by a recent newspaper crossword in which one of the clues, quadruplicated, was 'Whistle-blower'. The four answers were, respectively, 'canary', 'snitch', 'telltale' and 'betrayer'. The blog draws attention to negative perceptions of whistleblowers in the eyes of some people. It emphasises how wrong these perceptions are and how damaging this can be, with serious patient safety implications. In this blog I provide a crossword counterpoint (attached below to solve), which seeks to support learning about the realities of hostility against some staff who speak up in the NHS. I will share a follow-up blog which contains the solution to this crossword and seeks to provide further education on this topic where there is so much confusion and misunderstanding.
  6. Content Article
    hub topic lead, Hugh Wilkins, explores attitudes towards and repercussions of whistleblowing, with emphasis on healthcare professionals who suffer retaliation after raising patient safety concerns. He draws attention to damaging discrepancies between written policy and actual procedure. Hugh urges all healthcare leaders to welcome the concerns that 'whistleblowers' raise in the public interest and respond positively to them, which would lead to substantial improvements in staff engagement, organisational culture, quality of care and patient safety. *Whilst much of  the information in this article is referenced and in the public domain it is not legal advice.
  7. Content Article
    Poster presented by hub topic lead, Hugh Wilkins, at the MPEC 2021 Conference.
  8. Content Article
    This poster was presented by Hugh Wilkins at the UK Imaging and Oncology Congress in June 2019 and highlights the serious problem of retaliation against NHS staff who raise concerns in the public interest.
  9. Content Article
    A blog from hub topic lead Hugh Wilkins on the recent messages from NHS England and NHS Improvement leaders reminding everyone, including those at board level, of the duty and right of staff to speak up about anything which gets in the way of patient care and their own wellbeing. Hugh highlights the real risk of reprisals against some staff who have raised concerns in the public interest, and points out that much needs to change before NHS staff can be sure that it is safe for them to speak up.
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