NHS England launches standardised whistleblowing policy

A NEW standardised national whistleblowing policy has been launched by NHS Improvement in England with a pledge to support staff who raise concerns about the safety or quality of patient care no matter where they work in the NHS.

Freedom to speak up: whistleblowing policy for the NHS was published following a public consultation on the draft policy in November last year.

The new policy aims to ensure that NHS organisations encourage openness among staff and set out steps they will take to get to the bottom of any concerns. It calls for organisations to appoint their own Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, an independent and impartial source of advice to staff at any stage of raising a concern. Any concerns not resolved quickly through line managers will be subject to evidence-based investigations led by someone suitably independent in the organisation who will produce a report which focuses on learning lessons and improving care.

The policy also calls for whistleblowers to be kept informed of the investigation’s progress and for high-level findings to be provided to organisational boards.

Dr Kathy Mclean, Executive Medical Director at NHS Improvement said: "Staff working in the NHS are often the first to spot any issues with the safety or quality of patient care, and to make improvements quickly it is essential that they feel able to speak up.

"When Sir Robert Francis did his review on the Freedom to Speak Up, he said that raising concerns should be part of normal routine business for any well-led NHS organisation, and that a national policy would help make this happen. This policy will help standardise the approach to whistleblowing across the NHS, so that we can embed continuous improvement into how the NHS works.

"I want NHS staff to feel that any concern raised is an opportunity to learn and improve care, and we will help NHS organisations to implement this policy and foster free and supportive staff cultures.”

NHS England is also currently inviting consultation responses on new guidance for whistleblowing in the primary care sector.

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