What a waste! by Dot Kirkpatrick

It cannot have escaped your attention that the media has been writing about food waste. The Guardian recently reported the latest figures, showing that UK households are throwing away £13bn of food each year. This equates to 7.3m tones of household food waste. Of this, 4.4m tones were deemed to be avoidable. This set me thinking about my own food waste. I can honestly state that apart from the occasional out of date yogurts caused “buy” 2 packs for £3 scenario, I either cook and freeze or make the ingredients into soup! I am not precious about sell by dates unless associated with a dairy product, fish or chicken, apart from when I am having people for dinner! I can’t be poisoning the guests? A plaque in my kitchen states… “Many people have eaten here and lived!”

Dot 2This brings me around to the purpose of this blog. Medicines waste. I feel a bit of a turncoat as I have given many a presentation clearly stating that you cannot compare the difference between Kellogg’s cornflakes and a supermarket cheaper own brand with branded drugs and their generic equivalent. However in this instance there is an analogy.

A report by the Department of Health estimates that unused medicines cost the NHS around £ 300 million every year, with an estimated £ 110 million worth of medicines returned to pharmacies, £90 million worth of unused prescriptions being stored in homes and £50 million worth of medicines disposed by Care Homes.

These figures don’t even take into account the cost to patient’s health and well being if medications are not being correctly taken. If medicines are left unused, this could lead to worsening symptoms and extra treatments that could have been avoided.

Due to the complexity of the causes of medicines wastage, a multifaceted and long-term approach across all healthcare sectors is required including partnership working with third sector organisations, public health, voluntary groups and local councils.  Coming to a surgery, pharmacy, library, council office near you soon, will be posters(designed and printed by our local council)  letting you know that each year in Dumfries & Galloway, we waste £3m worth of medicines of which over half is avoidable.  Look out also, for twitter feeds, Facebook postings and press releases. The posters and social media messages will attempt to engage with the public on how we can work together to reduce medicines waste. Simple tips such as “Only order what you need”; “Check before ordering”; “Don’t stockpile medicines” will feature in our waste campaign. With £3m required to be saved from our drugs budget this year, we cannot afford to ignore the unnecessary cost of waste.

Dot 1Waste campaigns have been featuring on the Prescribing Support Team’s remit for many years. There was Derek the Digger whose sole purpose in life was to pick up medicines waste by the ton. Then there was our Big Red Bus Campaign. We had a range of items with catchy slogans e.g. erasers stating “Wipe out Medicines Waste”. Last but not least was our ferret, carrying a bag of drugs out of which coins were leaking and going down a drain This time our Waste Campaign will be ongoing. The posters will change, the messages will vary but our mission will stay the same. Medicines cost money and we do not have an endless supply of resources. We need to use our allocated funding for medications where it will benefit patients by improving health outcomes.

And back to the analogy. I must admit that my husband randomly buys jars of chutney despite having adequate supplies in the cupboard. There are far worse faults and I can live with that.  I however know what is in my fridge/cupboards/freezer and so I don’t stockpile resulting in wasting food supplies. I think what I need, I buy what is necessary and I don’t buy items that I don’t want. Simple no waste!

It is everyone’s responsibility to promote the messages around using medicines responsibly and I hope we can rely on your support by promoting our campaign.

Dot Kirkpatrick is a Prescribing Support Pharmacist at NHS Dumfries and Galloway

I walk and cycle to work because I’m lazy by Rhian Davies

It’s true, I’m lazy. If I didn’t travel on foot or by bike to work, the shops, the pub, I’d need to find the time, inclination and means to exercise. So I walk and cycle because it:

  • Gets me there

Walking is the oldest form of transport. In fact we’ve evolved to do it – having been walking around for about 1.9million years. Cycling has been a means of getting from A to B for nearly 200 years.

  • Gets me there quickly

No searching for car keys, waiting in traffic and finding parking spaces. A journey by bike in Dumfries takes about the same time as a journey by car. Walking or cycling on traffic free and quiet routes means I don’t get held up by queues and stay clear of road works.

Rhian 1

  • Saves time

No need to find time to get to the gym or go for a run as travel is my exercise. Most people say they would exercise more if they had the time. As I’m travelling anyway, that time is put to use as exercise time too.

  • Is enjoyable

Rhian 2The main thing for me is the fresh air, being outside and enjoying the wildflowers and wildlife that I see and hear, especially at this time of year. Winter has an upside too – no need to get up early to see a beautiful sunrise and the moonrises can be pretty spectacular too. I’ve also seen shooting stars on my way home from work. And despite what it feels like, it doesn’t rain that much! In fact, there’s a 95% chance of NOT getting rained on, on your way to work.

  • Is sociable

I often see people I know on the way and enjoy having a chat with them. Waving to the lollipop lady on the way to work or chatting with the nice man who walks his spaniel adds a little happiness to my day.

  • Is safe

The most recent figures from the Department of Transport show the fatality rate for pedestrians and cyclists is the same, with one death per 29 million miles walked or cycled. Looking at how many people were killed or seriously injured, it works out at one person for every 1 million miles cycled and one person for every 2 million miles walked.

  • Keeps me fit

The main difference compared to driving is that whenever you walk or cycle your health benefits, whereas remaining seated in a car does nothing to improve it. Typically I cycle to work, a 20 minute journey each way, which easily meets the guidelines for 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week.

  • Benefits people and planet

You only have to look at the news and you’ll see an almost daily report on worsening air pollution and the effect this is having on people and the environment. Walking and cycling isn’t the only way to tackle this problem but it is a difference we can make every day to the people and place we live.

  • Is easy to get parked

Rhian 3In my role as Active Travel Officer, I’m here to help anyone who is thinking of travelling by foot or by bike. I’m working with staff at DGRI, the new hospital, Crichton Hall and The Willows.

Over summer I’m running events including basic bike maintenance workshops, Essential Cycling Skills, information stalls on route finding and guidance on buying a tax free bike through Cyclescheme. Upcoming events are posted online and advertised in the core briefing and posters around DGRI, Crichton Hall and The Willows.

So if you’re feeling inspired come along to:

Bike Maintenance for beginners

Drop in session – not sure how to change an inner tube? Need to know how to check your bike is safe to ride? Find out how and have a go.
Monday 22 May and Friday 26 May: 12noon – 2pm and 4pm – 6pm

Venue: Garage 26, the hospital residences

Cyclescheme information stall

Come along to find information on applying for a tax free bike

Crichton Hall Canteen on Tuesday 23 May: 12 – 2pm

Essential Cycling Skills (Beginner)

Can’t remember the last time you’ve ridden, or feeling wobbly when you ride? This is the course for you. Please book here.
Part 1 Wednesday 24 May: 11.30am – 1pm, Part 2 Thursday 25 May: 11.30am – 1pm

Part 1 Monday 5 June: 5pm – 6:30 pm, Part 2 Tuesday 6 June: 5pm – 6:30pm

Meeting point: Garage 26, the hospital residences 

Essential Cycling Skills (Intermediate)

Are you happy cycling on quiet roads but not sure how to navigate roundabouts or junctions confidently? Then this is the course for you. Please book here.
Part 1 Wednesday 24 May: 5:30pm –7pm, Part 2 Thursday 25 May: 5:30pm –7pm

Part 1 Wednesday 7 June: 11am – 12:30pm, Part 2 Thursday 8 June: 11am – 12:30pm

Meeting point: Garage 26, the hospital residences 

Bike Security Marking

Thursday 1 June: 12 – 2pm and 4pm – 6pm

Meeting point: Garage 26, the hospital residences 

I also want to hear from you about what would help you get out and about on two feet or two wheels. Are there facilities or infrastructure improvements that would allow you to walk and cycle? Have you heard about electric bikes but never had a go on one? Just let me know!

Contact me on:

rhian.davies@sustrans.org.uk

Mob: 07788336211

Tel:  01387 246246 EXT: 36821

 

Rhian Davies is an Active Travel Officer for NHS D&G

Lochar North

Crichton Hall

Bankend Road

Dumfries

DG1 4TG

 

 

 

 

 

The QI Hub by Wendy Chambers

 

 Wendy C 1

 

Wednesday 19th of April – Marks the official launch of The Quality Improvement Hub for Dumfries and Galloway

Our vision: To support health and social care staff to design and deliver services that better meet the changing needs and aspirations of people, families and communities that access care.

The purpose: Quality is everyone’s responsibility. We aim to build a culture where continuous improvement is the norm and develop a network to share resources, learn and work together, to make it easier to do the right thing at the right time, every time.

Wendy C 2The QI Hub is a creative space where you can connect with others throughout health & social care, people with a passion to make a difference. Thinking space, away from the hustle & bustle that is daily life!! Come and find a supportive network of colleagues, share experiences and learning. Choose from a library of resources and practical tools to help structure your improvement projects and explore development and coaching opportunities.

Wendy C 3Building capability and capacity to lead improvement is vital, it empowers people and teams to own change; one resource available is a locally delivered Scottish Improvement Skills Programme. To illustrate how this is already having impact Wendy Chambers, who has recently graduated from Cohort 1, shares her reflections.

3 lessons from Scottish Improvement Skills (SIS) in D&G

Having recently completed cohort 1 of the SIS course in Dumfries, with a project that hasn’t gone quite according to plan, I thought I’d share 3 things I’ve learned along the way.

Lesson 1 – I’m not alone

I’ve always been comfortable questioning my own clinical practice; to be honest I ask “why” and “how” about most things in life; it drives my other half, and now as a parent I can appreciate must have driven my parents, mad! For me though questioning things is a reason why I get out of bed in the morning and keeps my job interesting and challenging. But in my 20 plus years of clinical practice, in many different settings, I’m acutely aware that not everyone thinks as I do…. then came SIS.

I walked into a room, filled with 30 other people, on the first day of the course and I felt like I had arrived, I’d come home! These were my people, this was my tribe – we spoke the same language, had the same fire in our bellies and were comfortable with the “what if …” questions!

Wendy C 4Being surrounded by similar and like minded people; learning from each other, sharing ideas, both the things that go well and the things that fail – I’ve come to appreciate that this support is essential to the process of implementing and testing change ideas. Because when I go back out into the real world, with all its pressures and realities, the natives won’t necessarily be as welcoming or receptive to my “bright ideas” and things won’t feel as cosy.  So now I won’t be alone, I’ve found my tribe, I’ve found support.

Lesson 2 – “Whose project is it anyway?”

The SIS course has given me an opportunity to consider and reflect on the process of implementing a change idea from conception through, in theory, to completion. And one of the fundamental pieces of learning for me has been – it’s all about the relationships; the people who I need to work with and who need to work together cohesively, in order to try things out.

None of us like, or take kindly, to being told what to do, regardless of how much positive evidence there may be that it’s the right thing to do. We all like to feel and be in control of our own destiny and decisions, try things out and discover for ourselves – and I’m no different from anyone else, in fact I’m possibly worse!

A change project idea that one person has come up with is exactly that – it’s their idea, their project.  It doesn’t, at that point, belong to the team for whom it is intended will be the “willing” guinea pigs to trial and develop the ideas. At that point it is “my project, not yours” and “your project, not mine”.

Wendy C 5
I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on my current and also previous projects, consider and question when I’ve done this well and a team has taken on board an idea and really owned it and made it their own and when it has most definitely remained my idea and no one else has bought in.
And my reflections go back to the relationships and the time that I have spent in this part of the process as a whole. And I realise that the time spent in the planning, alongside and with the others who will be involved and affected by the change idea is essential to the process, not the icing on the cake.

This isn’t new, or rocket science, any leadership book or workshop will include this – but we rarely have the luxury of “thinking space” to reflect on our learning.  And having a space, such as the SIS course, where failure is seen as valuable a part of learning as success has been enlightening, reassuring – it feels like home.

Lesson 3 – Skills

Apart from the thinking and reflection space the SIS course has also given me an opportunity to learn some real, practical skills and to relearn some old ones. I feel as if I now have a working toolbox of things which I can use and try out next time around, and every time around, when my next bright idea pops up.  I also have access to a whole tribe of people who can help me when I get stuck – which I will.

Wendy C 6

Old dogs, New tricks, nothing new under the sun.

But in the current health and social care climate things have never felt so uncertain, it’s all about change and innovation. We are all being expected to get comfortable in a world which is full of discomfort and will be constantly shifting. In this world my learning and reflection would be – get skilled, take time building relationships, find your tribe!

 Wendy C 7

Wendy Chambers is  a Mental Health Occupational Therapist and AHP Practice Education Lead at NHS Dumfries and Galloway

The QI Hub is for you and your team and you’re invited to actively contribute. Your ideas, knowledge and experiences are crucial to ensure the hub provides what you want!

Join us on Wednesday 19th April 2017, Conference Room, Crichton Hall. Programme and registration available by contacting Stevie.johnstone@nhs.net

QI Hub Development Team

An Occasional Visitor to Dumfries & My ‘Scottish Heritage’ by Tarik Elhadd

(This article was written in Dumfries in August 2015)

I have always been fascinated by the Trust Weekly Blog and stemming out from my connection with Dumfries, I thought of posting this reflection, hopefully it will be deemed suitable for publication.

I first came to Dumfries in spring of 2011 several months after departure from my home country, Sudan. My re-traffic to Sudan in 2009, trying to re-uproot, make a living and help my own people, was very much dashed by several factors. Making a living there was second to impossible. Back in 2007/2008 I had an offer to join a thriving health service in the area beyond the far western Canadian prairies, in British Columbia, which encompassed both academic and service domains. Coming to Dumfries was the perfect choice as the job was still vacant. I went to British Columbia a few months earlier in a fact finding mission. Part of the Canadian recruitment process entails inviting prospective candidates and their families to come and see themselves, and then make an ‘informed decision’. Following a week in ‘Prince George’ in fall 2010 we got satisfied and decided to go for it, despite that it is in the ‘end of the world’, being 13 hours flight from UK. But for us, the Sudanese, it was ‘Safe Haven’. The prospect of working and living in the ‘New World’ proved exciting. I had just turned fifty by then, and the career prospect was still rife. I began the process of joining Prince George University Hospital of North British Columbia, but to fill the 9 month gap whilst this took place I came to Dumfries to take up a locum in Diabetes and Endocrinology. One place, one hospital and then off you go to Canada. That was the dream which proved to be elusive.

At Dumfries life was very smooth. I was embraced by everybody, from within the department and from without, as one of the team. I never felt, nor was given, the feeling of being the ‘bloody locum’, who is here to do little for ‘too much money’ and then vanishing away. I was always treated with dignity and respect and always given the feeling of being ‘one of the team’. Everyone expressed love and showed gratitude to the job I was doing. This culture you won’t see or feel in other places as a locum. At Dumfries your expertise and hard work would be appreciated and valued and, despite that I was well paid for the hours I was doing, I was never eyed as a locum and stranger by anyone save one or two people.  Weeks and months and the path to relocate to British Columbia became fraught with obstacle after obstacle. It proved to be a ‘bumpy road’, and my stay at Dumfries continued, not only for nine months but it went to one and half a years.

I left Dumfries in August 2012 pursuing the elusive Canadian dream only to come back again in December 2013 when change of heart and change of fortunes forced yet a move into the opposite direction, this time eastward. The Canadian dream been burned on the altar of destiny. I was heading towards the Arabian Gulf, another safe haven for us, the beleaguered Sudanese. I was again embraced by Dumfries with the same old love, dignity and respect. Despite that my second ‘tenure’ at Dumfries was in Acute Medicine but it was equally enjoyable and blissful. Again I was never been given the feeling of the ‘other’, or the ‘stranger’. Not only that, after over ten months, I left to Qatar with an open mandate to come back at any time if ‘things did not suit me!!! Is that not wonderful and special to be given the feeling of ‘being wanted’ and in demand? Needless to say I was even approached to consider a permanent position and a substantive post.

Back to UK after spending a full working year in Qatar, and having the demand of keeping my license and my GMC registration alive and staying close to my grownups, who were staying in Cheshire, who had all re-trafficked back to UK after completing their University education in Sudan. I was welcomed back to Dumfries. It was the same old fantastic feeling. As a trainee back in the mid and late 1990s, I began my training in diabetes in Edinburgh at the old Royal Infirmary near Edinburgh Castle & the Royal Mile, and returned to Scotland again as an MRC Research Fellow at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee. Not to miss out the two years spell I had in Ayrshire when the educational needs of my youngest son made a re-traffic to UK in 2007 a necessity. So out of over 20 years of my career I spend in UK, one third was in Scotland. I am proud to call it my ‘Scottish Heritage’. One third of this heritage belongs to Dumfries-shire.

Dr Tarik Elhadd is a Consultant in Diabetes and Endocrinology

The Pneumonia in Bed 5 by Sian Finlay

Although it is sometimes easy to forget it amongst the busyness of front line clinical duties, I am a person.  I suspect many of you are too.  Occasionally I am unwell, but I consistently find that I still remain a person during this period – I have never yet become a disease!  So why is it that when patients come into our care, we so often default to calling them by their diagnosis instead of their name?  Go onto any ward and I guarantee it will not be long before you hear someone described as ‘The Chest Pain’ or ‘The Pneumonia’.  Many handovers will include phrases such as ‘He’s a UTI’.

No, he isn’t! He’s a PERSON who has a UTI!

A common (and potentially even worse) variant of this is the ‘bed number’ name, exemplified by ‘Bed 3 needs the commode!’  Sometimes attempts are made to justify this practice with the excuse that it protects confidentiality, but let’s be honest here.  The truth is that it simply demands more mental effort to remember the patient’s name and we are taking a short cut.  All very understandable in a busy environment, and I really don’t blame anyone.  You might think it is just semantics anyway – what does it matter if we call someone ‘The GI bleeder’?  Well I argue that it does matter.   More than you think.  These patients are people, no less complex and emotional and fragile than you or me.  By depersonalising them, we are subtly starting down a path which allows us to forget this; which allows us to view them as tasks in our day rather than the individuals they are.  If you are unconvinced, try this little exercise; read these 2 sentences and see if they elicit the same emotional response in you:

Bed 5 is agitated.

Tommy is agitated.

Would you agree that the second sentence immediately makes us feel more empathy and compassion towards its subject?

Many people will be aware of the late Kate Granger, the inspirational doctor who responded to her diagnosis of terminal cancer by establishing the ‘Hello, my name is..’ campaign.  Sadly Kate died last year, but her campaign lives on and has touched many of us in the healthcare profession.  But Kate’s work didn’t begin and end with wearing a smiley badge with our name on it; it is in essence about remembering the humanity of our patients and treating them as fellow human beings.  And I can only imagine Kate’s fiery reaction if she ever overheard herself being referred to as ‘Bed 5’!!

But we are all under pressure.  What if we genuinely can’t remember the patient’s name and are just trying to communicate information quickly?  Surely that doesn’t make us uncaring?  Of course it doesn’t, but in times of acute amnesia, we could at least say ‘the man with pneumonia’ rather than ‘the pneumonia’.  And that should only be a holding measure until we can remember his actual name – surely essential for safe communication anyway!

I hope I have convinced you that words do matter.  The phrases we use set the whole tone for the level of kindness and empathy we expect in our clinical areas.  So if any of this resonates with you, I hope you will lead by example.  Look at your patients and remember they have hopes and fears and histories and personalities…and almost always names!!

Sian Finlay (aka ‘The Migraine on ward 7’) Acute Physician and Clinical Director for Medicine at NHS Dumfries and Galloway

 

 

Surviving and Thriving in a Time of Change by Dawn Allan

I have always been fascinated by human beings and why we are the way we are.

Does our cultural and family background influence us?

Why do some people believe in God and some don’t?

Why are some people able to talk about death and dying so easily?

Why do people focus on their weaknesses, what about their strengths?

How self aware are we?

Who are we when nobody is looking?

Having emigrated from Ayrshire to South Africa where I spent my childhood and early adult years, I discovered the down side of the school playground because I sounded different.  There were only so many times a 6 year old with an Ayrshire accent wanted to mandatory repeat the word ‘potato’ at the class bullies insistence, and then suffer his disparaging comments,

“…doesn’t she sound weird…say it [potato] again…oh, ja, you’re from ’SCOT-LAND’ hey…”!?!

I remember stifling back tears, wishing I sounded like my peers so he would leave me alone.  When I reflect on this childhood bullying memory, it is mainly laughable now and I quickly adapted by adopting a local accent to blend in.  Life nurtured resilience and I learned when it might be safe to confront a bully wisely, when to ignore them and when to ask for help.

This year I relocated from Shetland to live and work in a place, “Often described as “Scotland in Miniature,” South West Scotland’s Dumfries & Galloway region is characterised by its rich cultural heritage, stunning scenery, sweeping seascapes, towering cliffs, rolling agricultural land, and its wide, wild landscapes”.  Who wouldn’t want to live here?!?  So, what about the people?  I am pleased to say they too are fascinating, warm and welcoming.

The 2017 focus for NHS Dumfries & Galloway is the move for many staff from the current DGRI to the new hospital.  From what I am gathering, this process of change is daunting for some.  If communication is key to all that we offer and provide as health care professionals, part of the way we manage our expectations in preparing to move is to be aware of how we communicate with or about each other as individuals, departments and teams.  Having a person-centred approach should be our modus operandi – our behaviour and communication does not go un-noticed by patients and visitors.  Being a ‘relational person’, I believe our hospitality is as valuable as our clinical / social care, our administration skills or our financial targets.

If a holistic approach cares for the whole person, this includes acknowledging someone’s pain, providing them with pain relief and offering them a cup of tea – all spiritual ‘acts’.  We all deliver spiritual care, what I aim to define is that we as staff do not, ‘go Greek’ i.e. compartmentalise and separate a person into ‘bits’, i.e. age, gender, status, patient, service-user, client, spiritual, religious, physical, mental, psychological, emotional…When in physical pain, the whole of our being is affected.  Judeo-Christian views that –

  • every person is born with worth and dignity
  • every person has the ability to choose between doing good and doing wrong
  • every person has the responsibility to help others in need and the community

Whether the person we are caring for or working alongside has a belief / faith or not, they will have a ‘value system’.  I hope having a VBRP – Values Based Reflective Practice – approach will help all of us as we reflect and hopefully learn from the past in the present, to know how to continue or change best practice, including our communication.  Our motives are based on values we apply every day which will help or harm the people we care for, including ourselves.

To be a hopeful presence is how I sometimes describe my encounters with people.   When we are at our most fragile and vulnerable, we need others we can trust, who will listen with their eyes and ears, who can make us laugh, encourage us when we feel stressed, sick or lonely and offer compassion.  My confidential support includes staff – we are all at different stages in our professional roles and our personal lives.  Before anyone ever declares whether they have a belief / faith or not, it is what we have in common as human beings that is paramount.  Difference is a given, but negative overemphasis on difference marginalises people – companionship and inclusion build bridges.  Sometimes, ‘life happens’ and it is the sudden, unexpected occurrences that affect our health and relationships most.

One of my favourite authors C S Lewis reminds me that a man of such academic, creative gravitas was honestly transparent, he said, “I pray because I can’t help myself.  I pray because I’m helpless.  I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping.  It doesn’t change God – it changes me.”

Rabbi Harold Kushner’s description speaks into my role, “When you cannot fix what is broken, you can help very profoundly by sitting down and helping someone cry.  A person who is suffering does not want explanation: the person wants consolation.  Not reasons, but reassurance.”

If we as individuals think we do not need each other, we are deluding ourselves.  My faith informs my professional practice, without imposing it on anyone.  If the Son of God relied on twelve disciples, who am I to say I can survive without the support and wise counsel of colleagues?  We are only human and we need each other to ensure NHS Dumfries & Galloway not only survives but thrives today and tomorrow.

Dawn Allan is Spiritual Care Lead Chaplain at NHS Dumfries and Galloway

Whistleblowing & Psychological safety by Gill Stanyard

gill-2

Three years ago, just before, I was appointed by the Cabinet Secretary to be a Non-Executive Director  , I became a whistleblower. I blew the whistle on an organisation I had previously worked at. The whole process felt like a mini earthquake happened inside of me – I felt physically shattered, on edge and at times, paranoid due to the fear of not knowing what was going to happen next. I was not kept informed and this was the most difficult thing to endure -I did not feel psychologically safe. However, this was bearable compared to the distress of keeping everything in, all the wrong doing I had witnessed and not knowing what to do or where to take it -this ate away at me until I took action to an external source. Despite the high reading on my internal Richter scale, I felt I had done the right thing.  Looking back, I know I did the right thing.

gill-3We have heard a lot lately about Whistleblowing in the press, from Julian Assange to the more recent Dr Jane Hamilton, who met with NHS Scotland Chief Executive and last week’s author of this D & G blog,  Paul Gray,  this month, about her concerns as a Psychiatrist working at NHS Lothian.

So, what does it mean when we talk about Whistleblowing? Public Concern at Work define Whistleblowing as:

A worker raising a concern about wrongdoing, risk or malpractice with someone in authority either internally and/or externally (i.e. regulators, media, MSPs/MPs)

In his Report on the Freedom to Speak Up review (“the Report”) published on 11 February 2015, Sir Robert Francis QC defines a whistleblower, in the context of the NHS, as: “a person who raises concerns in the public interest. An important distinction is to highlight the difference between grievances and concerns -the law around whistleblowing (Public Interest Disclosure Act)  responds to ‘concerns’.

 

Grievances                                Concerns

risk is to self                                  risk is to others

need to prove case                   tip off or witness

   rigid process                               pragmatic approach

legal determination                    accountability

private redress                           public interest

 

Fast forward to this present day, as Chair of Staff Governance, I was nominated last year to take on the role of Whistleblowing Champion for the Board -an assurance role created by Scottish Government for Non-Executive Members in November 2015. This was part of an on-going intention to raise the profile of Whistleblowing being safe to do and as part of a response to one of the recommendations from the Francis Report ‘Freedom to Speak Out’.

As Whistleblowing Champion I will look for assurance that investigations are being handled fairly and effectively including:

  • that reported cases are being investigated
  • that regular updates are provided on the progress of the investigations of reported cases
  • Ensure that staff members who report concerns are being treated and supported appropriately and not victimised
  • members of staff are regularly updated on the progress of the concern they reported and advised of investigation outcomes;
  • ensure that any resultant actions are progressed.
  • Ensure that relevant Governance Committees; HR; staff representatives and Whistleblowing policy contacts are being updated on the progress and outcomes of cases; and, recommended actions resulting from an investigation.
  • Publicise and champion positive outcomes and experiences.

 

Around the same time as this role was developed, also in response to the Freedom to Speak Up Review recommendations, the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport announced the development and establishment of the role of an Independent National Officer. This is to provide an independent and external level of review on the handling of whistleblowing cases. This role is still being implemented and recent word from Scottish Government representatives last week, is that focus is on investigating the statutory powers that would need to sit alongside this role, so, it is hoped that the post will be live by 2018. A lot of learning has taken place from the established Guardian scheme in England.

Shona Robison has talked very recently about her desire for all NHS Staff to ‘have the confidence to speak up without fear about patient safety.’ Dame Janet Smith, back in 2004,  when she helped to develop proposals following the Shipman Enquiry wrote “I believe that the willingness of one healthcare professional to take responsibility for raising concerns about the conduct, performance or health of another could make a greater potential contribution to patient safety than any other single factor.”

The Right Honourable  Sir Anthony Hooper, in his report on the handling by the GMC to cases involving whistleblowing (2015) revealed an issue around bullying.  The GMC has recognised that the bullying of those who raise concerns may make persons reluctant to do so. A GMC survey (published in November 2014) of the 50,000 doctors in training found nearly one in ten reporting that they had been bullied, while nearly one in seven said they had witnessed it in the workplace. At the time of the publication Mr Niall Dickson said: “There is a need to create a culture where bullying of any kind is simply not tolerated. Apart from the damage it can do to individual self-confidence, it is likely to make these doctors much more reluctant to raise concerns. They need to feel able to raise the alarm and know that they will be listened to and action taken.’ What I see Dickson referring to is the creation of psychological safety,  defined as ‘…a belief that it is absolutely ok, expected even, that people will speak up with concerns, with questions, with ideas and mistakes…’  Amy Edmondson, Professor in Leadership , Harvard University

gill-1Recently I came across this painting by Gozzolli depicting the story of St Jerome and the Lion.  I had vague recollections of this story from one dusty morning spent at Sunday School, where I thought the golden motes falling in front of the window were a sign from God that it was ok to eat the mini eggs next to the toy donkey on the Easter shrine. Turns out it was just dusty sunshine and the ‘eggs’ were mint imperials in disguise. .   In the story, a lion approaches St Jerome and other monks whilst they were saying prayers in the monastery -whilst the other monks fled with fear out of the window, running for weapons and other ways to attack and scare the lion away, St Jerome sat quietly and looked into the lion’s eyes. He saw pain reflected back at him, and with pricked curiosity, he watched the lion limp up to him and hold out its heavy front paw.  Jerome took the paw and examined it.. He saw the limb was swollen, and with closer inspection saw there was a thorn embedded in the pad. He removed the thorn and bathed the area with healing herbs and water and placed a bandage of linen cloth around the paw.. Expecting the lion to leave, he sat back and waited. The lion looked at him, now with all  trace of pain gone and lay down on the floor and went to sleep. The lion was said to have never left Jerome’s side.

What strikes me about the lion is his courage and self-compassion to remove the source of his own pain and to take action to do so, despite the risks of being attacked by the monks. Whilst of course it was not in the public interest whether the thorn was removed or not from the lion’s paw in whistleblowing cases it is widely recognised that the whistleblower does suffer before, with the burden of needing to speak out and after, with the worry of the consequences of what may happen next. Robert Francis  acknowledged this in his report ‘Freedom to Speak Out’  ‘… that the stresses and strains of wanting to do the right thing can be immense’  Last September I attended a Whistleblowing event at the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh. One of the speakers was  Dr Kim Holt, Consultant Paeditrician gill-4and founder of Patients First. She flagged up concerns to senior management in 2006 about understaffing and poor record keeping at St Ann’s clinic, part of Great Ormond Street Hospital. Sadly, her concerns were not acted upon and in 2007, Baby P died just three days after being seen by a locum doctor at the same clinic, who failed to spot that the toddler was the victim of serious physical abuse. Dr Holt, now recognised by the Health Service Journal as one of the most inspirational women in healthcare, spoke with calmness about the impact her experiences had on her well-being, including becoming severely depressed and unable to eat or sleep. She became a whistleblower, she says, because she feared something terrible would happen to a child and was devastated when her warnings were ignored.

I know it takes courage to speak up and share your concerns. I also know for a fact that we have quite a few St Jerome types here in NHS Dumfries and Galloway.

Our Whistleblowing Policy here at NHS D&G -take a look if you are not familiar :

http://www.nhsdg.scot.nhs.uk/Resources/Publications/Policies/Whistleblowing_Policy.pdf

The two people named in the policy are Deputy Nurse Director Alice Wilson – Tel. 01387 272789   and Deputy Finance Director Graham Stewart – Tel 01387 244033

These people have been given special responsibility and training in dealing with whistleblowing concerns. If the matter is to be raised in confidence, then the staff member should advise one of the designated officers at the outset so that appropriate arrangements can be made.

If these channels have been followed and the member of staff still has concerns, or if they feel that the matter is so serious that they cannot discuss it with any of the above, they should contact: Caroline Sharp, Workforce Director NHS Dumfries and Galloway (Tel : 01387 246246)

Also, the national helpline run by Public Concern at Work is called the National Confidential National Confidential Alert Line – 0800 008 6112

Gill Stanyard is a Non-executive member of NHS Dumfries and Galloway Health Board