Scottish Government
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Independent National Whistleblowing Officer

New measures to support NHS whistleblowers.

The Scottish Government is to establish the post of an Independent National Officer to scrutinise the handling of whistleblowing cases by NHS Scotland.

During a speech to the NHS Scotland Event today, Health Secretary Shona Robison will announce the Scottish Government’s intention to create the role, as part of a package of measures to protect whistleblowers in the NHS.

It follows the recommendations from the Freedom to Speak Up Review chaired by Sir Robert Francis QC which looked at the treatment and experiences of whistleblowers from across the UK workforce.

The Independent National Officer will provide an independent and external level of review on the handling of whistleblowing cases dealt with by NHS Scotland. The Scottish Government will be consulting on the detail of the Independent National Officer’s role and remit in autumn this year.

The creation of the new role is an addition to a number of other measures being developed by the Scottish Government, including appointing Whistleblowing Champions in each health board, running additional training events for NHS Scotland staff and the introduction of legislation to create a statutory duty of candour.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “It is very important that NHS workers feel they can raise any concerns they may have about patient safety and malpractice, because it helps to improve ourhealth service.

“I am confident that NHS Scotland has robust whistleblowing procedures in place but I want to go further and embed an honest and open reporting culture, where all staff have the confidence to speak up without fear, and with the knowledge that any genuine concern will be treated seriously and investigated properly.

“We have many of the recommendations from Sir Robert’s review already in place – such as an integrated and consistent national policy and an external confidential alert line.

“However I want us to do even more, and that is why I am announcing the creation of a new role, that will scrutinise the way health boards deal with whistleblowing cases.

“This will form part of a package of measures to strengthen our protection for whistleblowers throughout the NHS, and we will continue to work up the detailed proposals with the support of employers, professional organisations and staff side representatives.

“I look forward to working with them over the coming year to take forward the recommendations of the Freedom to Speak Up Review and pursue our joint aim of creating a supportive culture within the NHS that listens to and takes seriously the concerns of whistleblowers.”

The Health Secretary will write to all health boards later this month outlining what further actions need to be taken to take forward the additional whistleblowing measures.

Notes To Editors


The report and recommendations from the Freedom to Speak Up Review, chaired by Sir Robert Francis QC, was published on the 11 February 2015. Whilst the report and its recommendations relate to NHS England, the Scottish Government welcomed this review and has been clear from the outset that it would consider its findings to further support, encourage and promote whistleblowing.

The Scottish Government will take forward the following actions:

  • Create role of an Independent National Officer to provide an independent and external level of review on the handling of whistleblowing cases – the detailed proposals will be subject to consultation
  • Non-executive “whistleblowing” champions will be introduced in each NHS Scotland board. They will act predominantly as an oversight and assurance mechanism, as well as a conduit to ensure that internal mechanisms within Boards are working effectively to support whistleblowing arrangements and staff in raising concerns.
  • Further national whistleblowing training events will be provided to health boards.

This will complement existing work already undertaken over the last few years, including:

  • The introduction of the NHS Scotland Staff Governance Standard which requires employers to ensure that it is safe and acceptable to speak up about wrongdoing or malpractice.
  • The launch of the NHS Scotland Confidential Alert Line, run by Public Concern at Work, for NHS staff.
  • A series of whistleblowing training sessions for key staff within health boards.
  • Removal of the standard inclusion of confidentiality clauses and derogatory statement clauses from settlement agreements across NHS Scotland, ensuring that staff entering into such an agreement are clear that this does not compromise their right to whistleblow.


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