An official national ‘whistleblowing’ policy has been agreed by the NHS Staff Council and is to be brought in locally by all health service employers in cooperation with staff representatives.
The policy will be included in the NHS terms and conditions of service handbook and means that all personnel working in the health service now have a contractual right and duty to raise genuine concerns about malpractice, patient safety or other serious public interest-related risks with their employers.
Greg Allen, the employer side chair of the NHS Staff Council and director of human resources and workforce development at NHS Devon, said: “NHS organisations must continue to take malpractice and wrongdoing seriously. All staff should know that they have a responsibility and obligation to raise their concerns responsibly without fear of discrimination or punishment.”
The agreement provided local employers with practical steps to “promote and deliver a culture of openness”, he added.
Employers will be obliged to introduce local whistleblowing policies and implement clear processes and procedures under which staff can raise any workplace concerns. The policies will need to be developed in partnership with and signed off by local staff representatives. They must also be reviewed on a regular basis and policy usage will have to be monitored.
Mike Jackson, staff side chair and senior national officer for health at the Unison union, said: “Putting effective whistleblowing policies into hospitals across the country will be a major step forward – shining a light on malpractice and leading to better patient care. We must create a climate where staff feel they are able to raise their concerns without the fear of reprisals.”
The move follows the publication of the Social Partnership Forum whistleblowing implementation guide entitled ‘Speak up for a healthy NHS’ in June, which was endorsed by Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley.