Raising concerns in primary care settings - have your say

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07 / 4 / 2016 Midnight

NHS England is currently consulting on its draft guidance to help primary care staff to raise concerns. Freedom to speak up in Primary Care, guidance to primary care providers supporting whistleblowing in the NHS, details the principles and actions for effectively supporting primary care staff to raise public interest concerns. It also requests that each NHS primary care provider should name an individual, who is independent of the line management chain, and is not the direct employer, as the freedom to speak up (FTSU) guardian. The guidance is intended for all providers of NHS primary care services, including GP practices, dentists, opticians and community pharmacists. 

What does this mean for employers?

Many providers in primary care already have effective whistleblowing and raising concerns policies in place, however this is not consistent across all settings. Key principles for raising and managing concerns in primary care should ensure:

  • staff have the confidence to speak up
  • it is safe for staff to speak up
  • concerns are investigated
  • speaking up makes a difference
  • concerns are well received.
The new guidance explains how a concern should be raised. It includes a new integrated standard NHS whistleblowing policy, which has been adapted for primary care from the one recently issued for NHS trusts. Providers will be encouraged to consider how to make sure there is a named FTSU guardian and the guidance provides a number of options, ranging from arrangements with another local provider, access to a local hospital trust FTSU guardian and a nominated member of the local professional network (LPN) along with others.

All NHS primary care providers will be encouraged to review and update their local whistleblowing policies and procedures by March 2017 to align with the new policy. They will be monitored on implementation progress by assurance mechanisms such as the annual GP practice electronic declaration and the Community Pharmacy Assurance Framework. 


The Freedom to Speak Up report from Sir Robert Francis highlighted some unique challenges that exist in primary care for staff in relation to raising concerns:

  • Working in small units makes it quite difficult to raise concerns anonymously.
  • Staff fear for their employment if concerns relate to their direct employer.
  • There are fewer options for ancillary and non-clinical staff to raise concerns.

Further information and having your say

Read the freedom to speak up in Primary Care Guidance to primary care providers supporting whistleblowing in the NHS.Further information, including how to submit your response by 6 May 2016 is available on the NHS England website. NHS Employers is also keen to understand your views. If you'd like to share these with us please email raisingconcerns@nhsemployers.org by Wednesday 27 April 2016. 

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