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Government to extend protections for NHS whistleblowers

NHS whistleblowers will be better protected by new rules that prohibit discrimination against them if they seek re-employment in the NHS.

Plans published today will prohibit discrimination against whistleblowers when they apply for jobs with NHS employers. The plans also strengthen the legal recourse whistleblowers can access if they believe they have been discriminated against because they appear to have blown the whistle - with appropriate remedies if their complaint is upheld.

These changes were a recommendation from Sir Robert Francis’ Freedom to Speak Up review, which found a number of people struggled to find employment in the NHS after making protected disclosures about patient safety.

The consultation, Protecting whistleblowers seeking jobs in the NHS, which opened today, seeks views on the draft regulations that aim to:

  • give the applicant a right to complain to an employment tribunal if they have been discriminated against because it appears they have previously blown the whistle
  • set out a timeframe in which a complaint to the tribunal must be lodged
  • set out the remedies that the tribunal may or must award if a complaint is upheld
  • make provision as to the amount of compensation that can be awarded
  • give the applicant a right to bring a claim in the county court or the High Court for breach of statutory duty in order to, among other things, restrain or prevent discriminatory conduct
  • treat discrimination of an applicant by a worker or agent of the prospective employer (NHS body) as if it was discrimination by the NHS body itself

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:

Today we move another step closer to creating a culture of openness in the NHS, where people who have the courage to speak up about patient safety concerns are listened to, not vilified. These welcome changes will prohibit whistleblowers being discriminated against when they seek re-employment in the NHS, ultimately ensuring staff feel they are protected with the law on their side.

This furthers the Health Secretary’s aim to create an NHS that supports staff to raise patient safety concerns and welcomes those who have done so in the past.

Have your say on the draft regulations - the consultation is now open and will run for 8 weeks, closing on 12 May 2017.

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