Recommendations called for by Sir Robert Francis – a leading UK barrister – will see NHS trusts having to appoint a guardian to support whistleblowers in England.
Sir Robert made his recommendations after taking evidence from more than 600 people about their experiences, with a further 19,000 responding to an online survey.
“Unfortunately there are some places where too many staff are afraid,” he said in a statement. “Afraid that if they raise difficult or contentious issues they will not be listened to, nothing will happen, or, worse, that they will be bullied or have the finger of blame pointed at them.
“Sometimes no-one looks properly at what worried them in the first place. Then patients are left at risk, poor practice goes uncorrected, and lessons are not learnt.”
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the RCM, said patient safety had to be the priority. “We need to look at the detail of this report but it appears to contain sensible recommendations that we would support.
“At the root of this is ensuring that the people midwives and other NHS staff care for are as safe as possible; this has to be our absolute and fundamental priority.
“For too long and too often midwives and other NHS staff have faced opposition, harassment and bullying when they have tried to raise legitimate concerns about patient safety and standards of care. This must stop.”