The Scottish Government has announced the creation of a national officer post for whistleblowing, which will “scrutinise” the handling of cases by NHS Scotland.
Health secretary Shona Robison set out the intention to create the role as part of a package of measures to protect whistleblowers, which also includes appointing “whistleblowing champions” in each health board.
It follows the recommendations made in Freedom to Speak Up Review, chaired by Sir Robert Francis and published in February, that looked at the treatment and experiences of whistleblowers.
“It is very important that NHS workers feel they can raise any concerns”
The national officer will provide an “independent and external level” of review on the handling of whistleblowing cases dealt with by the NHS, said the Scottish Government. It will be consulting on the detail of the role and remit in autumn this year.
Meanwhile, the non-executive “whistleblowing champions” will be introduced in each NHS Scotland board.
They will act “predominantly” as an oversight and assurance mechanism, as well as a conduit to ensure that internal mechanisms within boards are working effectively to support whistleblowing arrangements and staff in raising concerns.
Further national whistleblowing training events will also be provided to health boards.
Ms Robison said: “It is very important that NHS workers feel they can raise any concerns they may have about patient safety and malpractice, because it helps to improve our health service.
“I am confident that NHS Scotland has robust whistleblowing procedures in place but I want to go further and embed an honest and open reporting culture, where all staff have the confidence to speak up without fear, and with the knowledge that any genuine concern will be treated seriously and investigated properly,” she said.
“This will form part of a package of measures to strengthen our protection for whistleblowers throughout the NHS,” she added.
“Large numbers of nurses have genuine concerns about their ability to provide a safe and good quality service”
The health secretary will write to all health boards later this month outlining what further actions need to be taken to take forward the additional whistleblowing measures.
The Royal College of Nursing backed ministers for listening to their calls for whistleblowing champions.
Norman Provan, RCN Scotland associate director for employment relations, said: “Large numbers of nurses have genuine concerns about their ability to provide a safe and good quality service because of a lack of resources. Yet, in many situations, nurses and others do not feel able to raise these concerns, or that it is worth doing so.
“That’s why we met with the then first minister and party leaders last year to ask for a whistleblowing champion on every health board to hold the board to account,” he said.