This week, the BBC has reported on a review into how ‘whistleblowers’ in the NHS have been treated after raising concerns about patient care or the environment in which they are working. The Freedom to Speak Up is “an independent review into creating the open and honest reporting culture in the NHS” (freedomtospeakup.org.uk). The report has shown that a large number of people working within the NHS would not report their concerns, as they felt that their issues would not be dealt with, or they were fearful of the consequences that may come as a result of speaking up.
Sir Robert Francis QC, who is heading up the review, acknowledged that one of the main issues associated with whistleblowing, is the subsequent treatment of those who reported concerns; some workers have been subject to bullying and intimidation from colleagues, leading to some staff developing health problems and even having suicidal thoughts. Despite praising the changes already made within the NHS “to improve accountability and transparency in the last two years”, he also spoke of the necessity to make raising concerns within the NHS commonplace and to ensure that ‘whistleblowers’ are properly supported.
According to the BBC, in response to the review, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, said that “listening to patients and staff is absolutely vital” and significant changes had been made within the NHS, especially since the Mid Staffordshire “scandal”, but he acknowledged that “more needs to be done”.
Some facts about Whistleblowing
(Information taken from the GOV.UK website)
‘Whistleblowing’ is when a worker reports suspected wrongdoing at work. Officially this is called ‘making a disclosure in the public interest’.
A worker can report things that aren’t right, are illegal or if anyone at work is neglecting their duties, including:
- someone’s health and safety is in danger
- damage to the environment
- a criminal offence
- the company isn’t obeying the law (like not having the right insurance)
- covering up wrongdoing
The way a worker can ‘blow the whistle’ on wrongdoing depends on whether they feel they can tell their employer.
- The worker should check their employment contract or ask human resources or personnel if their company has a whistleblowing procedure.
- If they feel they can, they should contact their employer about the issue they want to report.
- If they can’t tell their employer, they should contact a prescribed person or body (e.g. with regards to the NHS; Care Quality Commission or Nursing and Midwifery Council).
A worker can’t be dismissed because of whistleblowing. If they are, they can claim unfair dismissal – they’ll be protected by law as long as certain criteria are met.
A whistleblower who is bullied at work will also be able to bring a claim to the employment tribunal against their employer or colleagues.
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