Launch of charter to protect whistleblowers

NHS employees who raise concerns at work will be protected under a new national charter.

Health unions, regulators, professional regulatory bodies and professional associations have signed up to the Speaking Up charter launched by the NHS Employers organisation.

The charter aims to tackle the barriers that have traditionally prevented staff from reporting concerns to create a “just culture which is open and transparent”. It was developed following a whistleblowing summit in May 2012 attended by key healthcare organisations.

Those signed up to the charter pledge to work with other organisations to promote a culture of openness, transparency and fairness in which reporting and learning are seen as an important and integral part of providing safer patient care.

Signatories will also be encouraged to share expertise and information, where appropriate, that is in the interests of patient and public safety as well as facilitating the early reporting of concerns.

A 2011 NHS Staff Survey found 80 per cent of NHS staff said their trust encourages them to raise concerns but not all feel this would be done confidentially.

The charter calls for whistleblowers to be directed to sources of support and guidance to ensure they are fully aware of their rights under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA).

It also addresses the issue of so-called “gagging clauses”, saying that “compromise agreements containing clauses seeking to prevent disclosures protected under the PIDA 1998 are not acceptable.”

Signatories include the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the BDA, BMA, GDC, GMC, NHS Employers, UNISON and the CQC.

Dean Royles, director of the NHS Employers organisation, said: "Our staff do a tremendous job often in very challenging circumstances. They should feel confident that they can report concerns when they feel things are not going right and be assured that appropriate action will be taken.

“We need to work together to create a culture that makes that happen and the leadership from national organisations is vital to help make this happen.”

Read the Speaking Up charter

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