NHS whistleblowing plans to be examined

Holyrood’s health committee looks at Scottish Government plans to introduce NHS whistleblowing officer

Wednesday 8th May 2019

A committee of MSPs is to investigate Scottish Government plans to introduce a national whistleblowing officer for the Scottish NHS that would have the power to investigate how the health service handles complaints and treats employees who have spoken out.

Lewis Macdonald, who chairs Holyrood’s Health & Sport Committee, says: “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 Scottish Government is proposing the ombudsman for complaints about public services – including housing associations, local councils and the NHS – also take on the role of Independent National Whistleblowing Officer for the health service.

The newly-empowered watchdog would investigate how complaints are being handled by the relevant health body and have the power to investigate the treatment of any staff member who raised concerns and felt they were subsequently mistreated.

Mr Macdonald continued: “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.

“…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.”

In its 2018 investigation, the nine-member panel of MSPs concluded a ‘cultural change’ was needed to bring about more ‘openness and transparency’ in the NHS.

They went on to call for a national whistleblowing hotline that could deal with complaints as well as offering advice – a suggestion reiterated in a recent report on hospital infections.