DOCTORS and other NHS staff who blow the whistle will be given greater protection, the health secretary Andrew Lansley has announced.
Changes are being made to the NHS Constitution to protect all health service workers who raise concerns. But the changes will also make it clear that NHS employees have a duty to "report bad practice or any mistreatment of patients receiving care from the health service."
The Department of Health (DoH) said the amendments will be enshrined in the NHS Constitution and associated guidelines in early 2012 in the hope of encouraging more staff to come forward with concerns.
The move will add a number of provisions to the constitution including:
- an expectation that staff should raise concerns at the earliest opportunity
- a pledge that NHS organisations should support staff when raising concerns by ensuring their concerns are fully investigated and that there is someone independent, outside of their team, to speak to
- clarity around the existing legal right for staff to raise concerns about safety, malpractice or other wrong doing without suffering any detriment.
The changes are part of a series of measures being drafted by the DoH intended to promote whistleblowing following an "overwhelmingly positive response" to amend the NHS Constitution in this way during a public consultation earlier this year.
Mr Lansley said: "The first lines of defence against bad practice are the doctors and nurses doing their best to care for patients. They need to know that they have a responsibility to their patients to raise concerns if they see risks to patient safety. And when they do, they should be reassured that the Government stands full square behind them."