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National charter launched for NHS to encourage and protect whistleblowers

Health unions, regulators, and professional bodies have all signed up

Caroline White

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Health unions, regulators, professional bodies, and NHS leaders have signed up to the first national whistleblowing charter, in a bid to promote a culture in the NHS where staff can report safety and other concerns without fear of victimisation.

Spearheaded by NHS Employers, the Speaking Up charter pledges support for staff who raise safety or other concerns at work. It was developed following a whistleblowing summit held in May 2012, and attended by representatives from regulators, health unions, professional associations and professional bodies.

The 28 signatories include the BMA, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the General Medical Council, the Care Quality Commission, and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

The charter commits the signatories to work with other organisations to promote a culture of openness, transparency, fairness, in which reporting and learning are seen as an important and integral part of providing safer patient and public care.

It also calls on the signatories to share expertise, and exchange information, where it is appropriate and lawful to do so, in the interests of patient and public safety as well as facilitating the reporting of incidents and concerns early on.

According to the 2011 NHS Staff Survey, 80 per cent of NHS staff say their trust encourages them to report safety concerns, but not all feel this will be done confidentially.

The charter says that whistle-blowers should be signposted to sources of support and guidance to ensure that they are fully aware of their protected rights under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA)

Dean Royles, director of NHS Employers, said: "Our staff should feel confident that they can report concerns when they feel things are not going right and be assured that appropriate action will be taken. We need to work together to create a culture that makes that happen, and the leadership from national organisations is vital to help make this happen.”

He added: "The NHS has made good progress, but we should never be complacent about this issue. Too much is at stake."

Christina McAnea, Head of Health at UNISON, said that it was essential that staff felt able to speak up when they had any concerns over the standards of patient care or staff safety.

“And crucially they need to know that their report will be taken seriously and action taken,” she said. “Raising concerns must be seen more positively by local NHS managers as an opportunity to learn from staff and to improve health services.”

Jeremy Taylor, who heads up National Voices, the health and social care charity coalition, urged all health and social care organisations to champion the charter and put it into practice.

The full charter can be viewed here.

The national Whistle-blowing Helpline is available on 08000 724 725.

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