NHS and social care staff who have concerns about patient care will be able to access a new, free whistleblowing helpline from the 1 January, the health secretary has said.
The government-funded helpline will be available to staff and employers in the social care sector, as well as the NHS, via a now-free phone service.
This is in addition to the introduction of a contractual duty to raise concerns, which will be enshrined in the new NHS Constitution.
The new helpline number will be 08000 724 725. Provided by the Royal Mencap Society, the service will operate weekdays between 08.00-18.00, and an out of hours answering service will be available weekends and public holidays.
Andrew Lansley said: “Staff on the frontline know when patient services need to improve. That’s why staff who blow the whistle are crucial in helping to raise standards, and we’re determined to support them.
“Making it easier for staff to challenge the institutional power of organisations is a key factor in preventing, identifying and tackling pockets of culturally poor practice. That’s why we’ve created a helpline service for concerned staff…this will play an important role in creating a culture where staff will be able to raise genuine concerns in good faith, without fear of reprisal.”
But whistleblowers’ lobby group Patients First said the government shouldn’t be looking for an external solution and should ensure that the internal whistleblowing processes already in existence within NHS trusts should be made to work.
A similar web-based whistleblowing service is also being developed, with further details to be announced in due course.