Analysis

Regulator calls for whistleblowing policy to protect patients and nurses

A consultation has opened on plans for a national whistleblowing policy for the NHS in England

A consultation has opened on plans for a national whistleblowing policy for the NHS in England.

The regulator Monitor, the NHS Trust Development Authority (TDA) and NHS England have drawn up the draft policy. It was developed in response to the Freedom to Speak Up review on whistleblowing in the NHS, which was published earlier this year by Sir Robert Francis QC. In the review, Sir Robert recommended that a single national integrated whistleblowing policy be developed to normalise the raising of concerns.

Concerns

The draft policy sets out who can raise concerns, how they should do so, how concerns will be investigated and what will be done with the findings of investigations.

Monitor recognises that some organisations already have good policies supporting staff to raise concerns. However, the overall standard is variable, it states. The aim of a single national policy is to ensure consistency across

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A consultation has opened on plans for a national whistleblowing policy for the NHS in England.

The regulator Monitor, the NHS Trust Development Authority (TDA) and NHS England have drawn up the draft policy. It was developed in response to the Freedom to Speak Up review on whistleblowing in the NHS, which was published earlier this year by Sir Robert Francis QC. In the review, Sir Robert recommended that a single national integrated whistleblowing policy be developed to ‘normalise the raising of concerns’.

Concerns

The draft policy sets out who can raise concerns, how they should do so, how concerns will be investigated and what will be done with the findings of investigations.

Monitor recognises that some organisations already have good policies supporting staff to raise concerns. However, ‘the overall standard is variable’, it states. ‘The aim of a single national policy is to ensure consistency across the NHS.’ It wants the policy to be adopted by all NHS organisations except primary care providers in England. ‘We hope it will also be adopted by independent providers of NHS healthcare,’ it adds.

The policy commits organisations to listen to staff, learn lessons from mistakes and investigate concerns when they are reported. It advises whistleblowers: ‘Don’t wait for proof. We would like you to raise the matter while it is still a concern. It doesn’t matter if you turn out to be mistaken as long as you are genuinely troubled. If you raise a genuine concern under this policy, you will not be at risk of losing your job or suffering reprisal as a result.’

Disciplinary action

It also states anyone bullying or acting against a whistleblower is potentially liable to disciplinary action: ‘We will not tolerate the harassment or victimisation of anyone raising a concern. Nor will we tolerate any attempt to bully you into not raising any such concern. Reports of any such behaviour, if upheld following investigation, could result in disciplinary action.’

NHS England director of patient safety Mike Durkin said: ‘If any member of NHS staff witnesses something that could put a patient at risk of harm, it is vital they feel confident they can speak out without reprisal, that their concerns will be acted upon and that they are encouraged to make improvements themselves.

Open and honest

‘A safe NHS is an open and honest NHS where we routinely learn from mistakes and use that learning to improve patient safety. If we are to put patients first, we must create a culture where owning up to mistakes and speaking out about poor care is encouraged and embraced. This policy should support that.’

NHS TDA medical director Kathy McLean says: ‘It is hugely important that trust boards listen to what their staff have got to say and then take action to deliver improvements for patients.’

The consultation on the draft policy will end on January 8.

 

 

 

 

 

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