Wednesday, May 19, 2010

BMJ investigation raises concerns over NHS whistleblowing policies

Despite laws to protect NHS workers who wish to raise concerns about patient care, a BMJ investigation reveals that some NHS trusts still make it hard for staff to speak out.

The BMJ obtained whistleblowing policy documents valid up to November 2009 from 118 of the 122 NHS foundation trusts.

The documents were then compared against six standards set out in guidance produced by Public Concern at Work, an independent authority on public interest whistleblowing that also runs a helpline for NHS staff. These include taking malpractice seriously, giving staff the option to raise concerns outside of the trust, and respecting the confidentiality of staff raising concerns.

The results, published in the British Medical Journal today, show that some trusts do not have measures in place to protect whistleblowers.

Twenty two of the 118 trust policies do not give examples of types of concerns to be raised, while four do not mention the option for a person to raise concerns outside of the trust.

More than a third of trust policies say staff can go outside the trust with a concern, but insist that a person goes through management first. Some mention that staff must go to an outside organisation "in good faith" but warn that there may be disciplinary action if they go to them unjustifiably.

A fifth of trust policies do not specifically say they will respect the confidentiality of the whistleblower, or it is not clear that they will do, and 106 trusts mention sanctions against any malicious or false claims made.

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