XMAS FOI On NHS Whistleblowing
Paul Gaffney made this Freedom of Information request to Advisory Committee of the Allied Health Professions (Northern Ireland)
Dear Advisory Committee of the Allied Health Professions (Northern Ireland),
I have done some research and found there are a number of pieces of guidance on how best to ‘whistleblow ‘in the NHS.
1) Each trust is expected to have a’ whistleblowing’ policy modelled on 2003 Department of Health Guidance.
2)Other ‘whistleblowing’ guidance that is issued to general practitioners by NHS employers after the Shipman Inquiry and a Code of Practice published in 2008 by the British Standards and Public Concern at Work .
3 )A Doctor’s duty to report concerns is set out in the General Medical Council’s Good Medical Practice published in 2006 supported by supplementary guidance Raising Concerns About Patient Safety.
‘43. You must protect patients from risk of harm posed by another colleague’s conduct,
performance or health. The safety of patients must come first at all times. If you have
concerns that a colleague may not be fit to practise, you must take appropriate steps
without delay, so that the concerns are investigated and patients protected where
necessary. This means you must give an honest explanation of your concerns to an
appropriate person from your employing or contracting body, and follow their
44. If there are no appropriate local systems, or local systems do not resolve the problem,
and you are still concerned about the safety of patients, you should inform the relevant
regulatory body. If you are not sure what to do, discuss your concerns with an impartial
colleague or contact your defence body, a professional organisation, or the GMC for
45. If you have management responsibilities you should make sure that systems are in place
through which colleagues can raise concerns about risks to patients, and you must
follow the guidance in Management for doctors.
So raising concerns is not just a matter of personal conscience – in some circumstances it is a
4) Under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 ‘whistleblowers’ get legal protection against victimisation or dismissal for exposing malpractice at work. This piece of legislation followed a succession of cases where whistleblowers had been ignored , including the problems at Bristol Royal Infirmary ,where 29 babies and children died after heart surgery .
5) Until 1 April 2010 it was optional for NHS trusts to report serious untoward incidents to the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA).Since then there has been a duty to report introduced by the Care Quality Commission Registration Regulations 2009 ...a more demanding duty :
“This is a duty which is accomapied by sanctions in the criminal law for failure to report –and th ephraes in the regulations is ‘without delay’ –deaths which cannot be explained by the normal course of the illness the patient is suffering from.
And then equally significantly there’s a further duty ,again, to report events which appear –before anybody which has actually been injured or died from events in hospital –systems need to be in place which would expose patients to that sort of risk.’
THE QUESTIONS RAISED BY THIS FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT REQUEST ARE :
1) Is there any case law or any other pieces of legislation or other pieces of NHS or professional guidance which protect any possible ‘whistleblower.’?
2) Does the duty to inform of ‘wrongdoing’ extend to other staff: legal advisors,managers and social workers ,nurses and care assistants as well as doctors as well?Does it include a duty to inform of potential ‘wrongdoing’ that has come to light in other trusts and the like?
3) What punishment is meted out to those who knew of alleged wrongdoing and remained silent?
4) How many staff members have ‘whistleblown’ in your organisation?
Which department were they in?
How many are still employed there?
What were the outcomes of the attempt to ‘whistleblow’?
5) Despite pieces of legislation and professional guidance such as these nearly 90% of severance packages between NHS Trusts and departing doctors contain confidentiality clauses.The charity Public Concern at Work states that the law protects whistleblowers even if they have signed confidentiality arrangements.
a) How many confidentiality arrangements have been reached with former staff members?
b) What was the value of each agreement?
c) Does the 1998 Public Interest Disclosure Act make it illegal for NHS Trusts and other public bodies to include confidentiality clauses preventing the disclosure of information that is in the public interest? If not do they still have a duty to inform their professional body or indeed anyone else? Does this extend to any ‘act or omission’ (a term used in the Human Rights Act ) on the part of your organisation?
Paul Gaffney LLB BA
Paul GaffneyLLB BA
In relation to your FOI request, please note the following.
DHSSPS produce guidelines to enable Trusts to develop their own whistle
blowing policies. The questions you have asked would be quite specific and
the information would not be held in this Department.
I can provide details of contact details of the individual trusts in
N.Ireland or maybe you would want to re submit the the request with
questions relevant to the Department.
Information Management Branch