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Draft whistleblowing policy unveiled for NHS in England

  • NHS organisations in England required to adopt national whistleblower policy
  • Regulators believe policy will tackle variable standards
  • Move follows recommendation of Sir Robert Francis QC’s report

The regulator Monitor has today published plans for a national whistleblowing policy that each NHS organisation in England will be required to adopt.

The draft whistleblowing policy has been drawn up by Monitor, its fellow regulator the NHS Trust Development Authority and NHS England.

“We want to encourage a culture where raising concerns becomes normal practice in the NHS”

Tom Grimes

Its development came in response to the Freedom to Speak Up review on raising concerns in the NHS, which was published earlier this year by Sir Robert Francis QC.

The proposed policy, which will be consulted on until January, includes links to the national whistleblowing helpline and makes clear what people need to do in order to claim protection under the Public Interest Disclosure Act.

It also makes explicit reference to anyone bullying or acting against a whistleblower as being potentially liable to disciplinary action.

The policy advises whistleblowers: “Don’t wait for proof. 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.

“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,” it states.

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

“It is hugely important that trust boards are able to listen to what their staff have got to say and then take action”

Kathy McLean

The documents adds that anyone acting in good faith, even if they are wrong, will not be punished. However, it makes clear that anyone acting maliciously about a matter they know is untrue will not be protected.

In his report published in February this year, Sir Robert recommended that a single national integrated whistleblowing policy be created to “normalise the raising of concerns”.

In its consultation document, Monitor acknowledged there were currently variable standards across the NHS in how to deal with whistleblowers.

It said: “Having listened to organisations representing whistleblowers and employers, we believe this policy expresses the spirit and intent of the Freedom to Speak Up vision.”

“Our intention is that the policy should be adopted by all NHS organisations in England except for primary care providers. We hope it will also be adopted by independent providers of NHS healthcare,” it added.

Dr Kathy McLean, medical director at the NHS Trust Development Authority, said: “We know that when trusts take concerns seriously and investigate them properly they are often the ones which provide the best standard of care and treatment to patients.

“It is hugely important that trust boards are able to listen to what their staff have got to say and then use that to take action to deliver improvements for patients,” she said. “This policy should help them do just that.”

Tom Grimes, Monitor’s head of enquiries, complaints and whistleblowing, added: “We want to encourage a culture where raising concerns becomes normal practice in the NHS and foster an environment where concerns are taken seriously and investigated properly.

“We will support the NHS to improve services for patients and a key part of that is listening to its staff and learning lessons,” he said. “But this will need commitment throughout NHS organisations, from the wards to the boardroom.”

The consultation on the proposals will end on 8 January.


Readers' comments (9)

  • michael stone

    At least the draft policy does have the option of raising a concern anonymously - although it isn't entirely clear to me, how you raise a concern anonymously directly with your employing organisation, unless you do so using a letter with no sender details.

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  • I have concern that if it is found to be a malicious vexatious complaint raised through the whistleblowing policy, not only should the perpetrator ' not be protected' they should be investigated using the disciplinary procedure. Having witnessed what individuals are subjected too through this policy it's only fair that it works both ways. Obviously we want staff to be able to raise concerns but they should be valid and ultimately proven.

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  • michael stone

    I am 100% with Lynne Gray, but the issues around raising a concern 'because the organisation is getting something badly wrong [in a 'systemic way]' and 'vicious ad hominem malicious complaints' are quite different.

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  • Fran Entwistle

    Test comment

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  • It's important that concerns are investigated objectively, with no assumptions until evidence is collected. If organisations see them as learning opportunities first, rather than automatically disciplinary matters this would be possible

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  • We have the 'whisle blowing policy' a form is submitted with the complaint and you can choose to remain anonymous. My experience has been that some staff use this to raise complaints maliciously against colleagues who are then investigated; 'guilty util you can prove yourself innocent'. I thought the whole point was to raise genuine areas of concern, however, this has not been my experience; through union activity I have represented on cases whereupon the policy has been totally abused. The consequences for nurses can be quite devastating when this happens.

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  • Lynne Gray18 November, 2015 8:21 am

    Totally agree Lynne.

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  • michael stone

    I am not the target audience for this consultation, but it is a very clear, and 'easy to respond to', consultation (something not true, for example, of the recently-closed Law Commission MCA/DoLS consultation).

    I would urge all NHS staff to look at the consultation, and to respond if they have strong views about raising concerns, and/or 'whistleblowing'.

    Remember, that once the consultation has closed, 'well, we asked' will be true.

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