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Whistleblowing progress by government 'too slow', say MPs

  • 6 Comments

Government progress on improving the whistleblowing culture across its departments and the public sector bodies they are responsible for has been too slow, a critical report from a committee of MPs has said.

In its latest report on the issue, the Public Accounts Committee said it was disappointed by the “lack of urgency” shown by the Cabinet Office – which has responsibility for overseeing whistleblowing arrangements – since the previous committee called for improvements in 2014.

“Whistleblowing policies are too important to get wrong and the government should be leading by example”

Meg Hillier

Opportunities for the government to share learning from major reports, such as Sir Robert Francis’s review of whistleblowing in the NHS last year, were being lost, it said.

This was due to the absence of a formal process for officials to share good practice at board level within government departments, said the report.

The MPs also criticised the Cabinet Office for focussing on whistleblowing within government departments when it should in addition be putting measures in place to improve raising concerns in the wider public sector – as well as private organisations delivering public services.

During an evidence session with the committee at the end of last year, the Cabinet Office said issues associated with other departments – such as the Department of Health – needed to be addressed to their own officials because they were accountable for their bodies.

“Our committee wants to see universal measures put in place now to encourage whistleblowers to come forward”

Meg Hillier

But in today’s report, the committee said the Cabinet Office should require all organisations delivering public sector services to have effective whistleblowing arrangements in place and to report on concerns to identify systemic issues.

“The Francis review of the health sector highlighted the need for effective whistleblowing policies in the wider public sector. But the present approach is limited to collecting data on core departments, which risks missing valuable intelligence on whistleblowing across the wider public, private and third sectors,” said the committee.

“The Cabinet Office maintained that government does not have the capacity to act in this space,” it said. “But we consider that departments charged with delivering public services should be able to provide assurances that those delivering services on their behalf are treating whistleblowers appropriately, and feel confident that they have sufficient intelligence to act on systemic issues.”

Meg Hillier, chair of the committee, said: “Whistleblowing policies are too important to get wrong and the government should be leading by example. The fact that it isn’t should concern us all.

Public Accounts Committee

Whistleblowing progress by government ‘too slow’

Meg Hillier

“Whistleblowers are on the frontline of defence against wrongdoing and bad practice. They have a vital role to play in the day-to-day accountability of public spending and public service,” she said.

“Our committee wants to see universal measures put in place now to encourage whistleblowers to come forward, secure in the knowledge they will be supported and treated fairly throughout the process,” she added.

“There is little doubt that in the past potential whistleblowers will have been deterred by the shoddy treatment experienced by others. It is not beyond the scope of government to change that, in its own workplaces and beyond,” said Ms Hillier.

The committee said it expected an update in June from the Cabinet Office on its progress.

  • 6 Comments

Readers' comments (6)

  • michael stone

    There is too much 'covered by' this report/article [which seems to be rather 'process-orientated': put another way, there seems to be 'silos' under discussion here], for me to comment beyond stating my belief that a lot of work/progress still needs to be done before 'whistleblowing' and' learning from whistleblowing' become the norm.

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  • Of course we always have to put up with the interfering 'expert' views of MICHEL STOUNE who has never had the experience of working in a hospital.

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  • (I wish Anon 5.02 would cut out the tedious personal criticisms and stick to the subject.)

    Re whistleblowing;
    If it spreads to becoming a process for all, instead of the promised focus on NHS and NHS supervised locations then there is a high and unacceptable risk of delay. Plenty has been written, talked about and promised. Now it is time to actively implement the policies on whistleblowing before even more patients suffer even more harm.

    This government needs to focus and focus fast upon outcomes for those it is charged to protect.

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  • I whistleblew against the Interim managers (Ernst & Young) and their agents (HCMS) who were not qualified to manage nursing homes with complex care needs under the previous Health & Social Care Act and Regulated activities……. They then submitted vexatious allegations against me to the NMC and I appealed the NMC decision at High Court and won my case as a self-litigant and won all my other cases in the same manner with other authorities…. I submitted my successful High Court Judgment to the RCN and Nursing Times 3 times that illustrates how a WB NURSE has been treated BUT my emails have been ignored….. NOT slow like MPs have been accused of as MY MP has been extremely helpful…. BUT SHOCKED THAT NT & RCN HAS IGNORED MY EMAILS & BELOW LINK…….
    Suddock v The Nursing and Midwifery Council [2015] EWHC 3612 (Admin) (11 December 2015)

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  • Vasanta you are absolutely brilliant. The NT is not in my view a good media outlet for alternate nursing media. But I think it is an absolute disgrace the NT hasn't reported your case and others that have occurred. I believe there is an establishment fear of WBs' and the reflection that it has on the NMC. In my view the reflection on the NMC is terrible and Jackie Smith should do the moral thing and step down. As a whistle blower myself I'm on the edge of potential homelessness and can not risk coming forward, but my respect for you Vassanta is an,absolute. NT do the right thing and report this lady's case.

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  • michael stone

    ANONYMOUS 15 MARCH, 2016 4:19 PM

    What is 'alternate nursing media' ?

    I completely agree that cases such as Vasanta Suddock's must be taken seriously and learnt from, and if NT isn't adequately covering such cases then it is deficient.

    And your own situation - 'As a whistle blower myself I'm on the edge of potential homelessness and can not risk coming forward' - is EXACTLY why this 'whistleblowing issue' has to be sorted out: but the NT campaign about 'speaking up' is surely positive, in respect of that objective.

    It is really difficult, for staff - who could be bullied and dismissed from their jobs - to 'speak up' inside 'a bad management culture': patients are often too scared to complain: and bereaved relatives, are sometimes 'seen as either having grudges, or not understanding things well enough'.

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