Whistleblowing - reporting a problem in the NHS
What is whistleblowing
If you’re concerned about something that is happening in your workplace and you report it, you could be a 'whistleblower'.
The issue you raise needs to be one of public interest. This means that it affects other people, such as the general public. For example, if you work in the NHS, you might be concerned about patient safety or care, unsafe working conditions, fraud, or falsifying information about performance.
A nurse is concerned about the treatment of patients in a ward that they work on. The concerns include staff shouting, using insulting language, poor hygiene and falsification of records.
A physiotherapist wants to report problems with the storage of confidential information in a health centre where they work. They have seen files left out on desks overnight and confidential letters being left where they can be seen by people at reception.
A practice nurse finds out that a district nurse is claiming for over-time for hours which they haven’t actually worked.
If you’re a whistleblower, you shouldn’t be treated unfairly or lose your job because you reported the problem. Whistleblowers have legal protection from this type of treatment. Read more about unfair dismissal.
Whistleblowing in the NHS
The Independent National Whistleblowing Officer (INWO) can carry out an independent external review of how whistleblowing in the NHS in Scotland has been dealt with. This is usually after people have raised concerns within their workplace.
You usually need to contact the INWO within 12 months of finding out about the problem.
Anyone who provides services for the NHS in Scotland can report a problem in their workplace. This includes:
employees, including former employees
agency workers and others on short term contracts such as locums and bank staff
contractors including third sector service providers
trainees and students
anyone working alongside NHS staff such as those in health and social care partnerships.
The INWO has published the National Whistleblowing Standards which set out how NHS providers must handle whistleblowing.
The standards say that the identity of the person raising the problem needs to be kept confidential. Also staff must have a person that they can speak to confidentially about their concerns. This person is called a 'confidential contact'.
Whistleblowing advice line
The Independent National Whistleblowing Officer has a free, confidential advice line that provides information and advice about whistleblowing and the NHS in Scotland.