Bridget works part-time as Deputy Chief Pharmacist at Whittington Health; the rest of her working week is spent at Helicon Health developing e-learning for patients and healthcare professionals. She is a cinephile, loving movies old and new, and a newly converted runner, recently completing a charity run for Cancer Research.
Pharmacy staff at Whittington Health were surveyed to determine their perspectives on whistleblowing. Whilst all 49 respondents recognised that whistleblowing was important, less than half felt comfortable about raising a concern. The main barriers to raising concerns were the fear of reprisals (for example, being perceived as a troublemaker and losing one’s job), lack of managerial support and a lack of knowledge about the context of the concern. Workshop sessions are needed to address these barriers.
Whistleblowing describes the ability to raise concerns about wrongdoing, malpractice or patient safety. To safeguard patients, it is important that pharmacy staff feel empowered and supported to do this without fear of retribution so that bad practice is dealt with in a timely and appropriate manner.
To determine pharmacy staff’ perspectives on whistleblowing.
- To determine knowledge of whistleblowing
- To determine attitudes to whistleblowing
- To identify barriers to whistleblowing.
All members of pharmacy staff were invited to attend a workshop on whistleblowing. The aim of these workshops was to foster an understanding of whistleblowing and to identify staff concerns.
A semi-structured survey to determine perspectives on whistleblowing was then developed and piloted with eight members of pharmacy staff, selected to represent the target group. Minor changes were made to improve clarity of wording.
The final instrument comprised seven questions; all of these questions had a fixed response with the exception of one question included to elicit barriers to whistleblowing.
In March 2015, a link to this on-line survey was sent to all staff.
Coding was used to categorise responses to the survey. All statistical analyses were performed using SPSS 24™. Descriptive statistics were used to provide summary data. Inferential statistics were used to examine the relationship of one variable with another. The test used depended on the type of data analysed.
Surveys were completed by 49 members of staff (60% response rate); pharmacists (29), technicians (8), pre-registration pharmacists (5), other (7). A total of 69% of respondents understood what whistleblowing was, and all felt that it was important or very important. There were no significant differences between staff groups with respect to knowledge.
Less than half of the respondents (n=22) felt comfortable about raising a concern within the pharmacy department. Non-registered staff (ATOs, storekeepers, administrative staff) were more comfortable with doing this; technicians and student technicians less comfortable (p=0.032).
An identical number of respondents (n=22) felt comfortable about raising a concern arising outside the pharmacy department. There were no significant differences between staff groups.
The main barriers to raising concerns were the fear of reprisals (for example, being perceived as a troublemaker and losing one’s job), lack of managerial support and a lack of knowledge about the context of the concern.
Despite a good understanding of whistleblowing, some members of pharmacy staff either equated it with making a complaint or expressing a grievance, or felt that it solely reflected reporting a concern to an external organisation. All staff felt that whistleblowing was important and knew how to raise a concern. However, this study identified significant barriers to reporting concerns.
There was a statistically significant difference in attitude to reporting concerns within the pharmacy department between different staff roles. The reasons for this are unclear and will be explored at further workshop sessions, where remaining concerns and misconceptions will be addressed.