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NHS whistle-blower support scheme to roll out across the country

The NHS in England is to roll out dedicated support for members of staff who raise the alarm on unsafe practice.

Following successful pilots, the NHS will soon offer practical support to any doctor, nurse, or other worker across the country who needs additional support to build their career after raising concerns at work, as part of the NHS Long Term Plan to improve care and treatment.

The scheme will offer staff career coaching, shadowing opportunities, work experience, CV writing advice, interview skills practice and resilience training to former or current members of staff who have blown the whistle on poor practice.

The move to ramp up support for whistle-blowers is part of a package of measures to put a renewed focus on the wellbeing of patients under NHS care and follows publication earlier this year of a world-first patient safety strategy, which included a requirement for every local health service to have a dedicated patient safety specialist.

Evidence shows that health services delivering a higher quality of patient care are more likely to have a positive speaking up culture.

Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive said: “NHS staff raise concerns because they care about our patients, and every member of our workforce – midwife, therapist, cleaner, surgeon or receptionist – who spots and reports poor practice should be supported to help put things right.

“The NHS Long Term Plan sets out a world-leading package of measures to improve patients’ treatment and care, but we must keep getting the basics right, which is why we produced the first ever national patient safety strategy, are making it easier for our people to report problems and are taking steps to show our clinicians and other staff the same duty of care that we offer patients.”

The launch of the career support scheme follows two pilot projects started in 2017 which offered targeted support to 16 people who left the health service after they raised concerns about their organisation, with one in three successfully helped to retain or regain employment in the NHS.

Progress in recent years has been supported by Freedom to Speak Up Guardians – members of staff in each local part of the health service responsible for helping improve openness in reporting problems – who are now well established in trusts, with funding for the posts tripling and Guardians handling more than 19,000 cases.

Prerana Issar, Chief People Officer for the NHS said: “Making the NHS the best place to work is vital for our staff and means better care for our patients.

“Our staff shouldn’t have to think twice before blowing the whistle on poor practice, but too often nurses, doctors and other important workers worry about the impact on their own career so  helping our world-class workforce to play a leading role in spotting and stopping problems as they arise will make the health service even safer as we deliver the NHS Long Term Plan.”

As well as making it easier for staff to tackle problems, the NHS is taking steps to stamp out risks, with the new patient safety strategy supporting clinicians to halve medicine errors and continue to reduce the number of stillbirths.

A national patient safety reporting system will allow staff, patients and families the chance to report incidents on their mobile phones, while the new Medical Examiner System being rolled out across the country will give every bereaved family the opportunity to discuss any concerns about their loved ones care with an independent doctor.