A whistle-blower is defined as: a person who informs on a person or organization regarded as engaging in an unlawful or immoral activity.
Synonyms for this word include:
These words all have negative connotations. It is therefore no wonder that it can feel uncomfortable to be a whistle blower. Through this blog, further insight and understanding is offered to empower individual decisions in relation to whistle-blowing, by highlighting the importance of speaking up, and the potential consequences of choosing not to.
Winterbourne View Enquiry: Lessons for the future
The Winterbourne View hospital inquiry occurred at Winterbourne View, a private hospital at Hambrook. A Panorama investigation, broadcast on television in 2011, exposed the physical and psychological abuse suffered by people with learning disabilities and challenging behaviour at the hospital
The undercover footage showed staff repeatedly assaulting and harshly restraining patients under chairs. Staff gave one patient cold showers as a punishment, left her outside in near zero temperatures, and later poured mouthwash into her eyes. They pulled patients’ hair and forced medication into their mouths. Victims were shown screaming and shaking; one patient was seen trying to jump out of a second-floor window to escape the torment, and was mocked by staff members afterwards. Another patient was repeatedly poked in the eyes. A clinical psychologist who reviewed the footage described the abuse as “torture”.
The lessons learnt from this enquiry were stark and varied. However, the main theme in terms of learning, was whistleblowing. Firstly, how important it is and secondly, how much peer pressure can overtake people’s rational thinking in relation to doing the right thing. Lots of the staff involved with this enquiry had glowing references, they were good people who were led astray and carried away in the tide of abuse. Staff described a culture of being scared and ashamed to report through fear of being regarded as a ‘grass’. Instead, they succumbed to peer pressure and began to act in a similar way to other staff.
It was found that there were only two or three ‘ringleaders’ but there were wide reaching consequences following the programme and six staff members were jailed for their part in the abuse. 11 more were prosecuted for neglect and abuse.
Whistleblowing takes many forms but it is not to be regarded, in any form, as a negative. Thoughts may occur to justify not reporting, especially if the practise observed is not severe. The thing to remain mindful of, is: small things can build a bigger picture.
Every person within a care organisation is duty bound to report unsafe, illegal or immoral practise. Failure to do so could result in personal implications.
At Cucumber, we pride ourselves on supporting staff and clients throughout the whole process. We have a designated quality lead who receives details of all compliments and complaints. These are processed and actioned accordingly and the learning is taken forward to achieve positive outcomes.
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