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NHS whistle-blowers to get more protection under new proposals

Protections for NHS whistle-blowers are to be extended under new government plans.
nurse using mobile phone

Protections for NHS whistle-blowers are to be extended by the government.

Draft Department of Health (DH) regulations include proposals to give applicants who have previously exposed failings and are seeking re-employment in the health service a right to complain to a tribunal if they have been subject to discrimination.

The proposals aim to establish a time period during which a complaint to the employment tribunal must be lodged, detail the legal remedies available, and outline the scale of any compensation.

Preventing discrimination

The draft regulations also set out to treat discrimination of an applicant by a worker or agent of an NHS organisation as though it were the body itself that was carrying out the discrimination.

The regulations state that applicants will be given the right to

Protections for NHS whistle-blowers are to be extended by the government.


Nurses reporting poor care may feel more protected under planned legal changes  Photo: iStock

Draft Department of Health (DH) regulations include proposals to give applicants who have previously exposed failings and are seeking re-employment in the health service a right to complain to a tribunal if they have been subject to discrimination.

The proposals aim to establish a time period during which a complaint to the employment tribunal must be lodged, detail the legal remedies available, and outline the scale of any compensation.

Preventing discrimination

The draft regulations also set out to treat discrimination of an applicant by a worker or agent of an NHS organisation as though it were the body itself that was carrying out the discrimination.

The regulations state that applicants will be given the right to bring a claim in the county court or high court for breach of statutory duty to 'restrain or prevent discriminatory conduct', the DH said.

Francis recommendations

The changes were recommended by barrister Sir Robert Francis, whose 2013 independent report found there had been basic failings in standards of care at Stafford Hospital, with hundreds more patients dying than would have been expected between 2005 and 2008.

And in his 2015 report titled Freedom to Speak Up Review, Sir Robert found almost a third of the 19,000 NHS staff questioned who had raised a concern felt unsafe afterwards. More than 1,000 said they had felt victimised.

The review found that some NHS staff had been driven to the brink of suicide after voicing their concerns, with Sir Robert noting there were more references to bullying in the written contributions he received than to any other problem.

Culture of openness

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: 'Today we move another step closer to creating a culture of openness in the NHS, where people who have the courage to speak up about patient safety concerns are listened to, not vilified.

'These welcome changes will prohibit whistleblowers from being discriminated against when they seek re-employment in the NHS, ultimately ensuring staff feel they are protected with the law on their side.'

A consultation on the draft regulations will run for eight weeks.

'Staffing key to safe care'

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: 'We welcome all measures to support staff in raising concerns but the best way to provide safe patient care is to have enough staff in the first place.

'NHS staff must be supported in blowing the whistle but the health secretary must also listen to their warnings. Health professionals across the board are blowing the whistle to tell Jeremy Hunt that services are becoming less safe, not more, on his watch.'

Link to consultation here


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