Whistleblowing arrangements: NHSScotland PIN policy

This Partnership Information Network (PIN) policy aims to ensure that staff can safely raise concerns where they are witness to risk, malpractice or wrongdoing that affects others.

Appendix 1

Model Whistleblowing Policy

1 Introduction

This Policy should be used for any worker to raise a qualifying disclosure under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. This policy is available to all employees, workers and ex-employees of the organisation who have concerns about misconduct or wrongdoing.

Many staff will have concerns about what is happening at work. Usually these are easily resolved. However, when the concern feels serious because it is about a possible danger, professional misconduct or financial malpractice that might affect patients, colleagues, or [name of Board] itself, it can be difficult to know what to do.

Staff may be worried about raising such an issue and may think it best to keep it to themselves, perhaps feeling it is none of their business or that it is only a suspicion. Staff may also feel that raising the matter would be disloyal to colleagues, to managers or to the Board. It may also be the case that a member of staff has said something but found that they have spoken to the wrong person or raised the issue in the wrong way and are not sure what to do next.

[Name of Board] is committed to running the organisation in the best way possible. This policy has been introduced to reassure all staff that it is safe and acceptable to speak up, and to enable them to raise any concern which they may have at an early stage and in the right way. Rather than wait for proof, it is preferable if a matter is raised when it is still a concern.

This policy applies to all those who work for [name of Board]: whether full-time or part-time, self-employed, or employed through an agency.

If a member of staff feels that something is of concern, and they feel that it is something which they think [name of Board] should know about or look into, they should use this procedure. If, however, a member of staff wishes to make a complaint about their employment or how they have been treated, they should follow the Board's local policy developed in line with the Dealing with Grievances in NHSScotland PIN policy or the Preventing & Dealing with Bullying and Harassment in NHSScotland PIN policy, which can be obtained from their manager. This Whistleblowing Policy is primarily for individuals who work for [name of Board] and have concerns where the interests of others or of the Board itself are at risk.

If in doubt - raise it!

2 [Name of Board]'s commitment to staff

2.1 Your safety

The Board, the Chief Executive and the trade unions/professional organisations are committed to this policy. If a member of staff raises a genuine concern under this policy, they will not be at risk of losing their job or suffering any detriment (such as a reprisal or victimisation). Provided the staff member acts in good faith, it does not matter if they are mistaken or if there is an innocent explanation for their concerns. A member of staff raising a concern will not be asked to prove their claim. However, this assurance will not be extended to a member of staff who maliciously raises a matter they know to be untrue.

2.2 The confidence of staff

With these assurances, the Board hopes that staff will raise concerns openly. However, it is recognised that there may be circumstances when staff would prefer to speak to someone in confidence first. If this is the case, the member of staff raising the concern should say so at the outset. If the organisation is asked not to disclose someone's identity, we will not do so without that person's consent unless required by law. Staff should however understand that there may be times when the organisation will be unable to resolve a concern without revealing someone's identity, for example where personal evidence is essential. In such cases, it will discuss with the member of staff whether and how the matter can best proceed.

It should be remembered that if staff do not disclose their identity, it will be much more difficult for [name of Board] to look into the matter. It will also not be possible to protect the staff member's position or give them feedback. Accordingly, a member of staff raising a concern should not assume that the Board can provide the same assurances where a concern is reported anonymously.

3 Raising a concern

If members of staff are unsure about raising a concern, they can get independent advice at any stage from their trade union/professional organisation, or from one of the organisations listed at the end of this Policy. Staff should also remember that they do not need to have firm evidence before raising a concern. However, they should explain as fully as possible the information or circumstances that gave rise to the concern.

3.1 How to raise a concern

Step one

If a member of staff has a concern about a risk, malpractice or wrongdoing at work, it is hoped that they will feel able to raise it first with their line manager or lead clinician. This may be done verbally or in writing.

Step two

If a member of staff feels unable to raise the matter with their line manager or lead clinician, for whatever reason, they should raise the matter with:

[Name of designated officer]
[Contact details]


[Name of designated officer]
[Contact details]

These people have been given special responsibility and training in dealing with whistleblowing concerns. If the matter is to be raised in confidence, then the staff member should advise [designated officer] at the outset so that appropriate arrangements can be made.

Step three

If these channels have been followed and the member of staff still has concerns, or if they feel that the matter is so serious that they cannot discuss it with any of the above, they should contact:

[Chief Executive, Medical Director, Responsible Officer, Nursing Director]

3.2 Scottish Government Health Directorate

[Name of Board] recognises its accountability within NHSScotland. In light of this you can also contact:

  • Scottish Government Health Directorate, St Andrew's House, Edinburgh, EH1 3DG
    Tel: (0131) 556 8400

4 How [name of Board] will handle the matter

Once a concern has been raised, it will be assessed, and consideration will be given as to what action may be appropriate. This may involve an informal review, an internal inquiry or a more formal investigation. The member of staff raising the concern will be advised who will be handling the matter, how they can contact them, and what further assistance may be needed. The organisation will write to the member of staff summarising the concern and advising how they propose to handle it, and providing a timeframe for feedback. If the concern has been misunderstood, or there is any information missing, the member of staff should highlight this.

When raising a concern, it will be helpful to know how the member of staff thinks the matter might best be resolved. If the member of staff has any personal interest in the matter, they should confirm this at the outset. If it is felt that the concern falls more properly within the scope of one of the other of the Board's policies, this will also be explained to the member of staff.

Managers will give feedback on the outcome of any investigation. However, it should be noted that it may not be possible to give details of the precise actions taken, where this would infringe a duty of confidence owed to another person. While it cannot be guaranteed that all matters will be responded to in the way that the member of staff might wish, [name of Board] will strive to handle the matter fairly and properly.

If at any time throughout the investigation it becomes evident that formal disciplinary action may be a possible outcome, the investigation will be conducted in accordance with the provisions of the disciplinary procedure. Should it be thought necessary to suspend an employee during the course of any such investigation, the procedure outlined in the local Board policy developed in line with the Management of Employee Conduct PIN Policy will be followed.

The investigation will be concluded without unreasonable delay. However, the organisation allows for flexibility given the possible complexity of concerns raised. Timescales should be reasonable and communicated to all parties.

At all stages of the process any employee involved will have the right to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union/professional organisation representative.

5 Independent advice

If any member of staff is unsure whether to use this policy, or if they require confidential advice at any stage, they may contact their trade union/professional organisation.

6 External contacts

While [name of Board] hopes that this policy gives the reassurance needed to raise a concern internally, it is also recognised that there may be circumstances where a member of staff can properly report a concern to an outside body. In fact, [name of Board] would rather staff raised a matter with the appropriate regulator than not at all. Trade unions/professional organisations will be able to advise on such a course of action.

7 Complaints about the Chief Executive

If exceptionally, the concern is about the Chief Executive, then it should be made (in the first instance) to the Chair, who will decide on how the investigation will proceed.

8 Monitoring oversight

The Board is responsible for this policy and will review it regularly. The operation of this policy will be monitored by the Area Partnership Forum, and if members of staff have any comments or questions, these should be brought to the attention of trade union/professional organisation representatives.

9 Who we consulted

This policy was developed locally in partnership with trade unions/professional organisations, and meets the minimum requirements set out in the Implementing & Reviewing Whistleblowing Arrangements in NHSScotland PIN Policy.

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