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Whistleblowing - reporting a problem in the NHS

This advice applies to Scotland

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.  

Examples 
 
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 and whistleblowing.  

Whistleblowing in the NHS 

From 1 April 2021, there is a new process for dealing with whistleblowing in the NHS.  

The Independent National Whistleblowing Officer (INWO) can carry out an independent external review of how the whistleblowing 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 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 
  • volunteers 
  • non-executive directors 
  • 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 service 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'. 

Read the National Whistleblowing Standards on the INVO website

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.

Independent National Whistleblowing Officer advice line 
Tel: 0800 008 6112 (Mon, Wed and Fri 9am-1pm, Tues and Thurs 12-4pm) 
Email: online contact form or INWO@spso.gov.scot 
BSL users can call via contactSCOTLAND-BSL 
Website: inwo.spso.org.uk

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