1 Introduction: Why does whistleblowing matter?
NHSScotland wishes to ensure that employees have the opportunity and confidence to raise concerns. Through a whistleblowing policy, employees are encouraged to be open and are guaranteed to have their concerns considered. Employee concerns can relate to a wide range of matters, and could, for example, include child protection or health and safety issues.
Over the years there have been a number of high-profile cases involving tragic incidents in the NHS. Investigations into these and other incidents revealed that, in some cases, staff had concerns about what was happening but were unsure whether or how to raise them, or had raised the issue only to be ignored. This is why getting whistleblowing in healthcare right is vital.
The Scottish Government requires all NHSScotland Boards to have a whistleblowing policy, and the model policy at Appendix 1 of this PIN Policy is the minimum standard which must be adhered to. Boards have a role in building trust and confidence across NHSScotland. A responsible attitude to whistleblowing helps each organisation to promote a healthy workplace culture built on openness and accountability. Encouraging staff to raise any serious concern they may have about malpractice or serious risk as early as possible, and responding appropriately, is integral to achieving this. Importantly, it will help NHSScotland Boards to deal with a problem before any damage is done.
In NHSScotland, healthcare professionals and other staff work together to establish the trust and confidence of patients and of one another. In addition, it is the environment which is created by working in partnership with trade unions/professional organisations that will determine whether staff have the confidence to raise concerns. If good guidance and a safe alternative to silence in organisations is not provided by Boards, there is a danger that poor practice will go unchallenged.
Whistleblowing is a straightforward and practical governance tool. It is not a substitute for good risk management, but getting it right reaps benefits beyond simply detecting malpractice. Importantly, whistleblowing deters wrongdoing and raises the bar on standards and quality. Organisations which promote whistleblowing are likely to be viewed by their staff as better employers and better service providers.
This PIN Policy is designed to improve whistleblowing arrangements, which will give Boards the ability to demonstrate to patients, staff and other stakeholders that high standards of clinical care and governance are at the heart of their work.