The whistleblowing inquiry led by Robert Francis QC will address how to stop employers from “closing ranks” against those that speak out, preventing them from getting jobs in the future.
The Freedom to Speak Up review into the NHS reporting culture, which is being chaired by Sir Robert, started in August and is expected to report its findings early next year.
“[We want] to avoid that sense of the system closing ranks against someone who is ‘troublesome’”
As well as the issue of raising concerns itself, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the independent review was investigating what happened to people after they have left a trust where they blew the whistle.
“One of the issues Sir Robert is specifically looking at is, if someone finds they end up leaving their job and they don’t agree with the reasons they were given for leaving that job, and then they find they are unable to get employment elsewhere,” said Mr Hunt.
He added: “I don’t want to pre-empt what Sir Francis recommends to deal with that issue, but that is squarely what he is thinking about – to avoid that sense of the system closing ranks against someone who is ‘troublesome’.”
The health secretary was speaking at a health select committee session yesterday in the House of Commons about the wider issue of public expenditure and health and social care.
He described the whistleblowing inquiry as “unfinished business”, following the public inquiry into the care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, which was also led by Sir Robert and published its findings in 2013.
Mr Hunt said in “too many” parts of the NHS, people felt “very intimidated” about raising any type of concern that they believe may challenge their bosses, including those concerning patient safety.
He said the whistleblowing inquiry was part of a wider cultural change that was taking place within the NHS, in which the availability and use of transparent information would soon be viewed as the “main driver” for improving performance.
Sir Robert’s review was due to publish its recommendations by the end of November but they are now expected in the New Year.