Section 21: Right to raise concerns in the public interest (whistleblowing)

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21.1 All employees working in the NHS have a contractual right and a duty to raise genuine concerns they have with their employer about malpractice, patient safety, financial impropriety or any other serious risks they consider to be in the public interest.

21.2 NHS organisations must have local policies that emphasise that it is safe and acceptable for staff to raise concerns and set out clear arrangements for doing so. Such policies are often referred to as ‘whistleblowing’ or ‘open practice’ policies.

21.3 The NHS Staff Council recommends that local policies should include the following points:

  • the organisation takes malpractice or wrongdoing seriously, giving examples of the types of concerns that should be raised;
  • employees have the option to raise concerns outside of line management, including ultimately with the Secretary of State or relevant Minister in the Devolved Administrations, or with any body they designate for these purposes;
  • employees are able to access confidential advice from their trades union or their professional organisation. They may in addition seek confidential advice from an independent body e.g. Public Concern at Work;
  • the organisation will handle all concerns sensitively with, respect to the confidentiality of a member of staff raising a concern;
  • when and how concerns may properly be raised outside the organisation (e.g. with a regulator);
  • it is a disciplinary matter either to victimise a genuine “whistleblower” or for someone to maliciously make a false allegation. However, every concern should be treated as made in good faith, unless it is subsequently found out not to be;
  • the policy covers all staff, not just clinical professionals.

21.4 Local policies should be developed and signed off in partnership with local staff representatives. Policies should be reviewed on a regular basis and use of the policy monitored.

21.5 Local polices should be easily accessible to all staff and promoted across the organisation. It is recommended that local staff side organisations should be involved in any agreed communications strategy.

21.6 The specific arrangements for applying these principles in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be agreed in partnership within the Devolved Administrations.

Pay circular (AforC) 4/2010: amendment number 19

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