A confidential phone line for health service staff wanting to raise concerns about practices in NHS Scotland has been extended for a year, ministers have announced.
The NHS Scotland Confidential Alert Line has now been running for three years. Under the contract renewal, it will be extended for one year from 1 August 2016 to 31 July 2017.
“It provides staff with independent support and advice as well as an additional safe place”
Ministers said the one-year extension to the contract would allow them to continue to review the line alongside a “wider package of measures” developed over the past few years to support NHS staff who have concerns about practice.
The Scottish government will introduce a new independent national whistleblowing officer, who will “scrutinise the handling” of cases where staff have raised concerns.
Non-executive “whistleblowing champions” have also been appointed in each health board in Scotland, in order to provide an additional level of local scrutiny.
Scottish health secretary Shona Robison said: “The Scottish government’s aim is that all staff should have the confidence to speak up without fear and with the knowledge that any genuine concern will be treated seriously and investigated properly.
“That is why we set up the NHS Confidential Alert Line. It provides staff with independent support and advice as well as an additional safe place where they can confidentially raise any concerns they may have about malpractice and wrongdoing in NHS Scotland.”
She added: “I have always been clear that health boards must ensure that it is safe and acceptable for staff to speak up about any concerns they may have, particularly in relation to patient safety.”
The provision of the line fulfils one of the recommendations from the Freedom to Speak Up Review, which was chaired by Sir Robert Francis and published in February 2015.
The report stated that staff should have access to a nominated independent external organisation, such as a whistleblowing helpline, where they may receive advice and support.
While the report and its recommendations relate to NHS England, the Scottish government said it would also consider its findings to further support, encourage and promote whistleblowing.