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New Measures to Support Whistleblowers in Primary Care

On 16th November 2016, NHS England has confirmed the steps it is taking for primary care staff to raise their concerns. Following a five-week consultation with staff working in primary care, the new whistblowing guidance has been drawn up.

The new whistblowing guidance comes after Sir Robert Francis, Non-executive director of the Care Quality Commission recommended that the principles described in his Freedom to Speak Up report be adapted for primary care, where smaller work settings can present challenges around anonymity and conflicts with employers.

From April this year, primary care service staff working at GP surgeries, pharmacies, opticians and dental practices have been made able to raise their concerns about patient security, inappropriate activity or other concerns related to their working lives directly to NHS England without being afraid of risking their careers.

NHS England also launched the consultation on new whistleblowing plans for primary care staff. Submissions helped strengthen the plans and as a result main measures in the new guidance of whistleblowing include following things:

  • As the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, every NHS primary care provider should name an individual, who is not the direct employer and is independent of the line management chain.
  • NHS primary care providers should be proactive in stopping any inappropriate behaviour, like harassment or mistreatment, or discrimination towards employee who raise a concern.
  • By September 2017, all NHS primary care providers should review and update their local policies and procedures, to align with the new guidance.  

NHS England Director for Patient Experience, Neil Churchill said the safety in primary care relies on listening to, and acting on, concerns raised. This new guidance of whistblowing will help to make sure that if someone identifies a risk to patient safety, then they can speak out without any reprisal and confident that effective action will be taken.

He further added that a safe NHS is an honest and open NHS where medical professional routinely learn from mistakes and use that learning to improve patient safety.

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