Colchester: Whistle-blowing hotline for hospital staff to voice fears

A hotline for hospital staff to raise concerns in private has been launched.

A hotline for hospital staff to raise concerns in private has been launched. - Credit: Andrew Partridge

A WHISTLE-blowing hotline for NHS staff is to be launched at Colchester’s hospitals.

The “Raising Concerns” phone line will enable employees to report poor practices in the workplace anonymously.

The move follows new recommendations set out in the Francis report which exposed major breaches of patient care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

Union bosses have welcomed the initiative and say it will reassure staff who fear being discriminated against when they make a complaint.

The hotline will be available to all staff working at both Colchester General and Essex County hospitals and will be operated by independent company Care First, which currently provides counselling services.

Any complaints received will then be investigated and passed on to the hospital trust’s chief executive and the head of human resources.

The service is being introduced as the trust which runs both hospitals prepares for an investigation into high mortality rates and tries to cope with sharp increases in A&E admissions.

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During the first three weeks in March, there were 15% more attendances compared to last year. At its peak, there have been 270 patients visiting A&E in one day, compared to a norm of 200.

As a result, a contingency ward has been opened full-time until the end of May and extra staff have been recruited to deal with the heightened demand.

A complete rebuild and expansion of the A&E department is also scheduled in the next two years.

Commenting on the new whistle-blowing service, head of human resources at Colchester Hospital University NHS Trust, Sarah Shirtcliff, said: “Our trust aims to promote a culture where staff feel able to raise concerns, ideally openly or if they prefer anonymously.

“Staff can currently raise concerns in many ways, via their line manager, their trade union representative, with our health and wellbeing department or with the human resources department.

“Sometimes we understand that individuals may wish to raise concerns confidentially. Working in partnership with our staff side union representatives, the trust has set up a confidential helpline with Care First, the trust’s confidential counselling service, using a freephone number.

“Notification of a concern in this way will be anonymous. Following investigation, any actions identified will be provided to Care First who can advise the individual confidentially to give confidence that concerns are acted upon.

“The trust’s chief executive and director of human resources will be notified of every concern raised.”

Chair of the Colchester health branch of Unison, Isaac Ferneyhough, said: “We demanded anonymity – staff need to feel reassured there will be no comeback or discrimination.

“The hotline provides another opportunity for staff to raise concerns in confidence. The less barriers there are in place the better.

“I’m hoping there won’t be a big uptake but you never know. If there is, at least there is one less barrier to reporting them.

“But the trust has always listened to our concerns and on acted on them.”