Today marks the launch of the Independent National Whistleblowing Officer (INWO) service for the NHS in Scotland. The date coincides with the implementation of the new National Whistleblowing Standards (the Standards) which also go live today.
This means that from today all organisations providing an NHS service need to have procedures in place that enable their staff, students, volunteers and others delivering health services, to access the Standards and raise concerns. The INWO will then be able to investigate complaints that have been through the local whistleblowing process. This was previously agreed by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO), who will take on the new role of INWO, as stated in The Public Services Reform (The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman) (Healthcare Whistleblowing) Order 2020.
The Standards set out high level principles and a detailed procedure for investigating whistleblowing concerns. In consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, the INWO has developed a three-stage process. The first two stages of the process are for NHS organisations to deliver and the INWO acts as a final, independent review stage. The process gives staff support and protection to feel confident in raising concerns if they see something wrong. It also aims to promote a culture of speaking up in the NHS, with a focus on confidence to speak up as part of everyday business.
Rosemary Agnew, Independent National Whistleblowing Officer, said:
“The NHS in Scotland relies on staff, students and volunteers to deliver a wide range of services. They are essential to the delivery of safe care and treatment and good governance. They are also best placed to spot errors, wrong-doing or processes that put patients at unnecessary risk. We need to listen to them, but in order to do that we must give each and every one of them the space, opportunity and confidence to speak up. We want NHS staff to feel they can raise issues, safe in the knowledge they will be listened to and their concerns acted on promptly and confidentially. We also want to ensure that NHS organisations value the raising of concerns as a source of learning for continuous improvement. This is what the National Whistleblowing Standards and the Independent National Whistleblowing Officer service set out to achieve.”
The INWO offers a free telephone advice line to provide information and signposting for those wanting to raise whistleblowing concerns. This service is open to all NHS providers, staff and members of the public via Freephone 0800 008 6112.
Further information on how to raise whistleblowing concerns and access to an online complaints form is available on the INWO website https://inwo.spso.org.uk.