Public protector Rob Behrens says he wants to end NHS 'culture of fear' as he meets health chiefs in Blackpool

Blackpool's hospital has faced its own challenges in recent time
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A national defender of rights has warned more needs to be done to protect patient safety by changing the culture of the NHS.

Rob Behrens in BlackpoolRob Behrens in Blackpool
Rob Behrens in Blackpool

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) Rob Behrens was speaking during a two-day visit to Blackpool as part of a series of road-shows aimed at reaching more people who may have suffered poor care.

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During a visit to Blackpool Victoria Hospital, he heard how the hospital had faced challenges including the jailing of two nurses in December after they were convicted of illegally sedating patients.

Catherine Hudson, 54, was jailed for seven years and two months, and Charlotte Wilmot, 48, was jailed for three years following the incidents on the stroke unit which were investigated by police after a whistle-blower came forward.

Mr Behrens said: "A big issue with the NHS is the culture it exists in - a fear culture so whistle-blowers are afraid to report what they see in terms of patient safety. Blackpool has had an issue with that. In that case, the whistle-blower was listened to and believed and that doesn't seem to happen in other places.

"It's not my job to find faults everywhere, but to familiarise myself with the reality of the difficult situations people find themselves in."

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He said there had been situations in Blackpool "where they haven't got it right such as poor diagnosis or failure to look at imaging properly" and his role was to ensure any complaints were handled properly.

Mr Behrens has been involved in the formation of Martha's Rule which means from April patients in a serious condition will be able to urgently seek a second opinion. It follows the death of 13-year-old Martha Mills at a hospital in London in 2021 from sepsis, which could have been treated had she been taken to intensive care sooner.

He said: "I am here to look at how the hospital handles complaints and make suggestions about how they could do it better. I was impressed with the honesty of the people I met in Blackpool who didn't pretend everything was ok. I was impressed with the way they deal with complaints and are taking part in training to implement the independent complaints framework."

For more information about making a complaint to the Ombudsman, visit:

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