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
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. Their stories are on the Health Education England (HEE) YouTube channel.
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, NHS Improvement and people with lived experiences of whistleblowing have worked together to see the launch of pilot support schemes for NHS whistleblowers from primary and secondary care. The pilot schemes have been evaluated by John Moores University to help shape the development of an integrated scheme for the NHS.