Hospital Dr News

First national whistleblowing policy to improve patient safety in the NHS

People working in the NHS who raise concerns about the safety or quality of patient care will be supported wherever in the NHS they work, a new standardised national whistleblowing policy claims.

Following a public consultation on the draft policy in November last year, NHS Improvement and NHS England have published a single national integrated whistleblowing policy to help standardise the way NHS organisations should support staff who raise concerns.

The new policy will ensure:

  • NHS organisations encourage staff to speak up and set out the steps they will take to get to the bottom of any concerns;
  • Organisations will each appoint their own Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, an independent and impartial source of advice to staff at any stage of raising a concern;
  • Any concerns not resolved quickly through line managers are investigated;
  • Investigations will be evidence-based and led by someone suitably independent in the organisation, producing a report which focuses on learning lessons and improving care;
  • Whistleblowers will be kept informed of the investigation’s progress; and
  • High level findings are provided to the organisation’s Board and the policy will be annually reviewed and improved.

Recommended by Sir Robert Francis in his Freedom to Speak Up review, this policy contributes to the need to develop a more open and supportive culture that encourages staff to raise any issues of patient care quality or safety.

Dr Kathy Mclean, Executive Medical Director at NHS Improvement, said: “Staff working in the NHS are often the first to spot any issues with the safety or quality of patient care, and to make improvements quickly it is essential that they feel able to speak up.

“When Sir Robert Francis did his review on the Freedom to Speak Up, he said that raising concerns should be part of normal routine business for any well-led NHS organisation, and that a national whistleblowing policy would help make this happen. This policy will help standardise the approach to whistleblowing across the NHS, so that we can embed continuous improvement into how the NHS works.

“I want NHS staff to feel that any concern raised is an opportunity to learn and improve care, and we will help NHS organisations to implement this policy and foster free and supportive staff cultures.”

First national whistleblowing policy

The consultation received responses from whistleblowing organisations, trade unions, NHS providers and commissioners, so NHS Improvement and NHS England were able to ensure the policy works well across the sector and is supported widely.

Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive of NHS Employers, commented: “Employers are committed to ensuring that every member of staff feel able to raise any concerns and know that appropriate action will be taken. We know a lot of work has gone into reviewing and improving policies and practice and this policy will help employers with the work they are doing.

“We are also pleased to see that employers can incorporate their local processes into this national standard policy – employers will now want to review the documentation in partnership with their local staff representatives and agree the best way to engage and communicate with staff.”

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