Whistleblowing

When Sir Robert Francis published Freedom to Speak Up, he recommended primary care be reviewed separately. After a period of consultation with staff working in primary care, which ended in May 2016, Freedom to Speak Up guidance for primary care was produced.

On 1 April 2016, NHS England became a ‘prescribed person’ under the Public Interest Disclosure Order 1999, meaning primary care service staff working at GP surgeries, opticians, pharmacies and dental practices, can raise concerns about inappropriate activity directly through the following ways:

Telephone: 0300 311 22 33
Email: england.contactus@nhs.net
General Post (including complaints): NHS England, PO Box 16738, Redditch, B97 9PT British Sign Language (BSL):  If you use BSL, you can to talk to us via a video call to a BSL interpreter. Visit NHS England’s BSL Service.

Staff in primary care organisations might feel unable, or find it hard, to raise concerns without being identified. This is sometimes due to their size as they are much smaller than a Hospital Trust for example. The management set up and internal relationships and a real risk to employment can prove to be a problem. In some cases the whistleblower might be employed directly by the individual providing the service that is the subject of the concern.

The intention is that the guidance should be used specifically by primary care organisations to review their policies and procedures on staff raising concerns about safety.

The guidance sets out:

  • who can raise a concern
  • the process for raising a concern
  • how the concern will be investigated
  • what will be done with the findings of the investigation

If, as a member of staff working in primary care, you have a concern about patient safety, quality of care or inappropriate activity, you can raise it with your appointed Freedom to Speak Up guardian. You may wish to learn about the experience of several people who have whistleblown over time, and raised some very serious concerns.  Here are their stories.

Alternatively, you can raise your concern directly with NHS England, which is a ‘prescribed person’. Our External Whistleblowing Policy will be used to handle any concerns raised.

NHS England and NHS Improvement, formerly Monitor and NHS Trust Development Authority respectively, published a single national integrated whistleblowing policy along with stakeholder responses from a period of consultation late last year.

Also contained within the Freedom to Speak Up report, was a recommendation that staff who have raised concerns and suffered detriment as a result should be supported to find alternative employment within the NHS.

NHS England has now launched a pilot support scheme for NHS whistleblowers from primary care and the first participants were accepted onto the programme in January 2017. A similar scheme is now being developed by NHS Improvement for whistleblowers from NHS Trusts.

The NHS England scheme is tailored to each individual, and provides services including:

  • Career coaching and support;
  • Occupational Health assessment and advice;
  • Financial advice;
  • Mediation;
  • Whistleblowing mentorship ie. specific support from people with expertise in whistleblowing.

The scheme will be independently evaluated, and the learning will help to inform future programmes run for primary care by NHS England, and for secondary care by NHS Improvement.

Information will be included here when we invite applications for future rounds of the scheme.

If you are currently working in primary care and have raised a concern with NHS England, your contact at NHS England can refer you to the scheme if you are having difficulties with your employment.