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Primary care staff can feel 'particularly isolated' on whistleblowing

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Staff working in GP practices, including practice nurses, “can feel particularly isolated”, when it comes to raised concerns, according to a major report on whistleblowing in the NHS.

They may find it harder to raise concerns without being identified and their job could be at stake because they may be employed directly by the person they fear is acting negligently, said the Freedom to Speak Up report, which was published earlier today.

While every GP practice must have a formal process for patients complaints there is no requirement to have a process for staff concerns.

Meanwhile, structural changes mean many primary care staff do not know where to go for advice or to raise a concern.

“I was surprised at the lack of clarity that now exists for primary care staff wanting to raise a concern,” said the report’s author, Sir Robert Francis, who concluded the 2012 reorganisation “left a serious gap” when it came to supporting staff.

At the very least, he said staff should be able to report concerns to clinical commissioning groups and NHS England.

Federations of GP practices or clinical commissioning groups could consider identifying a “go to” person for raising concerns or the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian within a local trust could also support primary care organisations.

Small practices including single-handed GPs must still ensure staff can get external support if they have a concern, he said.

“Staff in primary care organisations should be encouraged to raise concerns openly, routinely and without fear of criticism or worse,” added Sir Robert.

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