Parliament Committee seek views on proposed approach to complaints about the treatment of NHS whistleblowers

08.05.2019

The Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee has launched a consultation into whether new proposals by the Scottish Government will achieve a cultural change in how the NHS in Scotland handles matters raised by whistleblowers.

The Committee is also keen to hear opinions on how the proposals will affect the way the NHS treats its whistleblowers.

It comes on the back of proposed Scottish Government legislation which would see the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman (SPSO) act as the Independent National Whistleblowing Officer (INWO) for Scotland’s NHS.

The role of the SPSO, which is completely independent of Government, would be to review how the health board, family health service or independent provider handled the whistleblowing concern, and if it acted reasonably in making any decision. They would also be able to investigate the treatment of the whistleblower by their employer.

Lewis Macdonald MSP, Convener of the Health and Sport Committee, said:

“Our review last year into the governance of NHS Scotland raised a number of concerns when it came to the issue of whistleblowing. 

“The report made clear that the current whistleblowing arrangements were not nearly robust enough in terms of their effectiveness or independence from NHS employers and Scottish Ministers, and that whistleblowers must not be prejudiced as a consequence of their actions.

“We want to hear from those working as part of Scotland’s NHS to see whether they feel these proposed Scottish Government changes will give them sufficient assurances to make them feel comfortable to blow the whistle.  

“The Committee is clear that all NHS staff should be able to report any concerns they have in confidence and that those concerns must be fully investigated in a fair, transparent and independent manner.”  

The SPSO intends to introduce a model procedure for the handling of whistleblowers’ concerns by the relevant health body. The INWO would review the internal handling of a whistleblowing case against these Standards, in cases where the whistleblower was dissatisfied by the internal investigation.  

The issue of whistleblowing was raised in the Committee’s inquiry into ‘The Governance of the NHS in Scotland’ which was released in July 2018. In its report, the Committee raised a number of concerns regarding the current whistleblowing system in NHS Scotland:

* It concluded a cultural change was needed to ensure a culture of openness and transparency was prevalent with clear mechanisms in place for staff to raise concerns.

* It expressed hope that the forthcoming post of Independent National Whistleblowing Officer could help in achieving this cultural change.

* It called for the introduction of a national hotline for whistleblowing.

* And concluded that NHS boards should be allowed to appoint Whistleblowing Champions that were other than non-executive board directors.

An independent review, the ‘Sturrock Review’ was also recently carried out into concerns of a bullying culture at NHS Highland and concerns have recently emerged in NHS Ayrshire and Arran. 

Background

The call for views on the proposals for a new role of Independent National Whistleblowing Officer and the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman standards for internal handling by health services of whistleblowers case is open until 22 May.

Full details can be found on the committee webpage.

You can read the Committee’s report ‘The Governance of the NHS in Scotland - ensuring delivery of the best healthcare for Scotland’ here.

You can learn more about the work of the Health and Sport Committee on the Scottish Parliament website.

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