Extra protection for NHS whistleblowers under new policy

WHISTLEBLOWERS who raise concerns about NHS care in England will be protected from reprisals under a draft new national policy.

Those with concerns about unsafe care or working conditions are being urged to speak out immediately even if they don’t yet have proof.

The draft Freedom to speak up: whistleblowing policy for the NHS states: “We would like you to raise the matter while it is still a concern. It doesn’t matter if you turn out to be mistaken as long as you are genuinely troubled.”

It goes on to reassure those who do come forward that: “If you raise a genuine concern under this policy, you will not be at risk of losing your job or suffering any form of reprisal as a result. We will not tolerate the harassment or victimisation of anyone raising a concern.

“Nor will we tolerate any attempt to bully you into not raising any such concern. Any such behaviour is a breach of our values as an organisation and, if upheld following investigation, could result in disciplinary action.”

The new “standard integrated policy”, drafted by Monitor, the NHS Trust Development Authority (TDA) and NHS England, is currently open for consultation.

It was created in response to recommendations made by Sir Robert Francis in his Freedom to Speak Up review published earlier this year. It is hoped it will bring an end to the “awful experiences of people being met with obstruction, defensiveness and hostility when they tried to raise concerns at work”, which were brought to light in Francis’ report.

The aim is to have a single national policy on whistleblowing in England to ensure consistency and “to help normalise the raising of concerns for the benefit of all patients”. It will be adopted by all NHS organisations in England, apart from primary care providers who will have their own, more tailored policy, drawn up in due course.

The new policy sets out:

  • who can raise a concern
  • the process for raising a concern
  • how the concern will be investigated
  • what will be done with the findings of the investigation

It encourages people to raise concerns in the first instance with a line manager or lead clinician. If the matter is not resolved, it can be escalated to one of the new NHS Freedom to Speak Up guardians who were installed across England earlier this year.

The policy also promises to protect the identity of whistleblowers (unless disclosure is required by law) who wish to raise concerns anonymously.

A five-point “vision for raising concerns in the NHS” is illustrated in the policy where people: feel confident to speak up; feel safe to speak up in future; concerns are investigated; speaking up makes a difference; and concerns are well received.

The consultation closes at 5pm on January 8, 2016. Find out more here