The Scottish Government is to establish the post of an Independent National Officer to scrutinise the handling of whistleblowing cases by NHS Scotland.
Health Secretary Shona Robison will announce the intention to create the role this week, as part of a package of measures to protect whistleblowers in the NHS.
It follows the recommendations from the Freedom to Speak Up Review chaired by Sir Robert Francis QC which looked at the treatment and experiences of whistleblowers from across the UK workforce.
The Independent National Officer will provide an independent and external level of review on the handling of whistleblowing cases dealt with by NHS Scotland. The Scottish Government will be consulting on the detail of the Independent National Officer’s role and remit in autumn this year.
The creation of the new role is an addition to a number of other measures being developed by the Scottish Government, including appointing Whistleblowing Champions in each health board, running additional training events for NHS Scotland staff and the introduction of legislation to create a statutory duty of candour.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “It is very important that NHS workers feel they can raise any concerns they may have about patient safety and malpractice, because it helps to improve our health service.”
The report and recommendations from the Freedom to Speak Up Review, chaired by Sir Robert Francis QC, was published on the 11 February 2015. Whilst the report and its recommendations relate to NHS England, the Scottish Government welcomed this review and has been clear from the outset that it would consider its findings to further support, encourage and promote whistleblowing.
This will complement existing work already undertaken over the last few years, including:
– The introduction of the NHS Scotland Staff Governance Standard which requires employers to ensure that it is safe and acceptable to speak up about wrongdoing or malpractice.
– The launch of the NHS Scotland Confidential Alert Line, run by Public Concern at Work, for NHS staff.
– A series of whistleblowing training sessions for key staff within health boards.
Dr Peter Bennie, chair of the BMA in Scotland said: “Doctors tell us that they fear raising concerns or ‘whistleblowing’ for the possible impact it could have on their career or their relationship with colleagues. Many also believe that they won’t be listened to or it won’t make a difference. So it is important that we end this culture where people don’t feel able to speak up.
“No-one should be victimised for raising a concern. It often takes a huge amount of courage, but doctors have both the right and duty to speak out, and they should be supported to do so.”