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Greater protection for NHS whistleblowers outlined


Health service employers will have to pledge to support whistleblowers, under proposed amendments to the NHS constitution in the wake to the Mid Staffs scandal.

The changes will also highlight that staff have a legal right to raise concerns without “suffering any detriment” but that they are expected to raise any concerns as soon as possible.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley issued a written ministerial statement today outlining three proposed changes to the constitution and its handbook, which will be open to consultation until 11 January.


The consultation proposes three key changes:
1) highlighting existing legal rights of all staff to raise concerns about safety, malpractice or other wrongdoing without suffering any detriment.
2) introduce an NHS pledge that employers will support all staff in raising such concerns, responding to and where necessary investigating the concerns raised.
3) create an expectation that NHS staff will raise concerns about safety, malpractice or wrong doing at work which may affect patients, the public, other staff or the organisation itself as early as possible.


Mr Lansley said a “culture of fear and secrecy had pervaded” at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, which left its staff “feeling unable to raise concerns”. 

He said the changes outlined in the consultation fulfilled his promise to put action in place to protect whistleblowers before the findings of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry are published next March. The public inquiry was announced in June and hearings are due to begin on 8 November.

Mr Lansley said: “Specifically, I made clear that I intended to initiate work on whistleblowing, to improve conditions and procedures for those who wished to raise concerns.

“Today, I am launching a public consultation on amendments to the NHS Constitution and its Handbook, which are concerned with making clear the rights and responsibilities of NHS staff and their employers in respect of whistleblowing.” 

Separate guidance on whistleblowing in the NHS was published in June. It was developed through the Social Partnership Forum with input from the independent whistleblowing charity Public Concern at Work.

Designed to support NHS organisations who are in the process of updating or creating whistleblowing policies and procedures, the guidance promotes best practice. It suggests simple steps to help NHS organisations ensure their whistleblowing arrangements are fit for purpose.

The NHS Staff Council has also negotiated changes to the terms and conditions of service handbook for NHS staff covered by Agenda for Change, to include a contractual right and duty to raise concerns in the public interest.


Readers' comments (5)

  • Health service employers may well have to pledge to support whistleblowers, however it is often the individual teams that staff work in that actually influence wether a member of staff raises concerns or not. Those who raise concerns are often ostrasised and become the subject of team bullying. Student nurses are deterred from reporting poor practice for a number of reasons one being the fear of failing clinical placements (Bellefontaine 2009). Whilst the NHS constitution may tick an all important theoretical box, front line staff will vouch for the fact that practically it is not that easy.

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  • I completely agree with you. As a student nurse over 20 years ago I witnessed practice that I should have reported but didn't because the charge nurse at the time said he would have me sacked. They were seen as god then and I was the sole earner with a baby. Had whistleblowing been as stringent and protective even as now with room for improvement I would have thought differently. I have to live with that but I have blown the whistle on bad practice ever since.

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  • I agree with the above..I reported concerns which were not dealt with,matters became worse,was also given veiled threats,followed and watched.Again reported concerns.As a result, internal investigation held,BUT,no evidence found,yet numerous reports made by others.These initialed reports were then given to the accused perpetrators.I was in effect demoted,told my 'Standards were too high'.Line managers had no understading of NMC code practice.I was asked by managers if I would do the same again,I told them I would.I now feel I am being watched and judged.Now.who came out worse?!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Whistleblowing;Raising concerns------we are told and shown the detailed policies and procedures to enable this,whilst informed we will recieve support under these circumstances;we follow our NMC Code of Practice and Conduct,as this is necessary and expected.....though where is the true support? It is non-existent.
    Through experience,the perpetrator and management are the only people who are supported--or protected!!!

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  • As a whistle blower myself who was sacked for whistle blowing and recieved numerous detriments prior to that......I hope the new NHS Constitution makes NHS employers put how they set out to protect the whistle blower from detriment in their policies and ensure that they evaluate the effectiveness of their policy. Read you whistle blowing policies...says a lot about how they will not allow you to be victimised, bullied or harrased....says nothing about how they intend to deal with that behaviour if it happens.....The managers are usually the ones shooting the messenger.

    As for the RCN guys....dont hold out for them....they will get you to sign on the dotted gagging order line asap or they will only support a high profile whistle blower who breaks her code of conduct and does cohort filming with her patients consent. Maybe the NMC were too harsh on her...and yes it was right that she appealed but the bottom line is is that she could have gone to numerous prescribed agencies before filming for the BBC. The RCN only support something if its in their interests too.

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