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Early warning signals….

September 10, 2012

What is it about some organisations that make it possible to identify problems before a crisis is reached? How do you capture that ethos?

Looking at the Francis report on the failures at Mid Staffs Foundation Trust the scale and depth of the problems were facilitated by the closed culture of the hospital. Staff turned a blind eye to poor practice for fear of their own position. People who knew things were going badly wrong felt unable to raise them. Dozens of external bodies and regulators failed to spot the signs.

There have been numerous recent examples in finance and banking – and in health and social care – where scandals have come to light through whistleblowers. The Public Interest Disclosure legislation protects whistleblowers who disclose to an appropriate body. But are sufficient people made aware of this? When was the last time you read your organisation’s whistleblowing policy? Do you know if there the Board thinks it is important?

As the Francis report makes clear creating an open organisation is about values and behaviour. Everyone in the organisation has a part to play. Codes of conduct and whistleblowing policies on paper alone don’t do it. There are plenty of examples of scandals we can learn from. But we are really looking for good examples that we can share – places that really have that spirit of openness about problems and a top team that actively encourage it. Know any? How do they do it?

Derek Morris

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