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NHS increases support for whistleblowers

First national policy sets out how to raise concerns and embodies pledge to listen

Louise Prime

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The NHS is to increase its support for whistleblowers who want to raise concerns about poor quality care, under new plans for the first national whistleblowing policy. NHS leaders have welcomed the proposals, revealed yesterday, which they said would lead to improved services for patients as well as better working conditions for NHS staff.

When Sir Robert Francis QC reviewed the experience of whistleblowing in the NHS, he concluded that there is a serious issue in the NHS with whistleblowing that “requires urgent attention if staff are to play their full part in maintaining a safe and effective service for patients”. He recommended that there should be a single national integrated whistleblowing policy to help normalise the raising of concerns.

Monitor, the NHS Trust Development Authority (TDA) and NHS England said it was important that all staff, including those who may be more vulnerable, feel able to raise concerns. They said the proposals in their new policy will make it clearer for staff to know how to raise concerns and for employers to know how to respond, and that it embodies a commitment to listen to staff, to learn lessons from mistakes and to properly investigate concerns when they are reported.

Monitor’s head of enquiries, complaints and whistleblowing Tom Grimes said: “We want to encourage a culture where raising concerns becomes normal practice in the NHS and foster an environment where concerns are taken seriously and investigated properly.

“We will support the NHS to improve services for patients and a key part of that is listening to its staff and learning lessons. But this will need commitment throughout NHS organisations, from members of the board to those working in frontline services.”

NHS Employers welcomed the clarity offered by the new policy but stressed that, for it to bring about progress, it was essential for local NHS bodies to be involved in its implementation. Its chief executive Danny Mortimer said: “NHS Employers recognises that staff need to be able to raise concerns and ensure the safe care of patients. Employers across the NHS will welcome the opportunity to comment on this consultation to ensure we get the right outcome for staff and patients. Ensuring NHS staff feel confident and safe to raise concerns with their employer is a high priority across the NHS. Having clear policies and protocols is important, however, employers recognise that it is essential that this is matched with how issues are received, handled and feedback given.

“We need to ensure we do not lose this local engagement and ownership if we are to make progress. We will be working with employers and our network to inform a response to the consultation and we will be encouraging individual organisations to respond directly also.”

The NHS Confederation’s chief executive Rob Webster encouraged everyone to take part in the consultation on the proposals, which closes on 8 January. He said: “I urge every Chair to take the opportunity to contribute and to engage in a discussion at their Board on their local arrangements.”

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