NHS staff who are not satisfied with internal investigations will soon have support from an independent whistleblowing officer.
The Independent National Whistleblowing Officer (INWO), said to be a UK first, will act under the auspices of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) with statutory powers to help whistleblowers.
The INWO will also examine health boards’ culture and approach to the issue- particularly where a whistleblower claims to have been unfairly treated as a result of raising a concern.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “All NHS staff should have the confidence to speak up without fear, and in the knowledge their concerns will be treated seriously and investigated properly.
“The Independent National Whistleblowing Officer will give staff the ability to access an independent, external body who can review their case and bring it to a clear, final and fair conclusion. As Scotland’s independent and impartial watchdog, the Ombudsman is well-placed to provide that safeguard. It will mean cases are dealt with in a way that provides the very highest levels of reassurance for staff.”
Legislation will be introduced to the Scottish Parliament next year to bring the INWO role under the auspices of the SPSO.
Rosemary Agnew, the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, said: “It is important to me that any challenge to the way in which public services are delivered is listened to, considered and results in both resolution and appropriate, proportionate improvement. Giving us the role of Independent National Whistleblowing Officer for the NHS in Scotland brings whistleblowing complaints in line with service complaints, providing an independent final consideration of the way in which a matter is investigated and responded to. My aim is to ensure standards are properly applied and result in fair outcomes, while also safeguarding patients, and those raising the complaints.”
The SPSO is independent from both the Scottish Government and health boards, with a duty to act impartially.