Speak up for a healthy NHS

Published on Tuesday, 20 July 2010 01:00
Written by Karen Charman

The Government expects a climate of openness and dialogue in the NHS which encourages all staff to feel empowered to raise concerns in a reasonable and responsible way without the fear of victimisation

A new guide, Speak up for a Healthy NHS, has been published to help employers work in partnership with trade unions at local level to achieve best practice when devising, implementing and auditing their whistle-blowing arrangements. It has been commissioned by the NHS Social Partnership Forum (NHS Employers, NHS trade unions and the Department of Health) and has been written by the independent whistle-blowing charity, Public Concern at Work (PCaW).  


The guide advises employers on how to set up, or review current, policies for raising concerns and arrangements to ensure that they meet the requirements of the Public Interest Disclosure Act . The Act, which was enforced in 1998, gives significant statutory protection to employees who disclose information in the public interest and are victimised for doing so. This has been further backed up by the NHS Constitution which incorporates the right of all staff who raise concerns reasonably and responsibly, to be protected against victimisation.  


Paper polices are an important start, but the best legislation in the world will only work where organisations have robust systems in place to give staff the confidence to act and the knowledge of how to access the support systems that are available. A policy is of no use unless staff understand what it means for them in their daily working lives.



Employers need to work closely with trade unions to embed good employment practice and to help communicate the internal mechanisms in place for staff to raise concerns.  However, this alone is not enough, to provide staff with real confidence to act, policies to tackle bullying, harassment and discrimination also need to be firmly embedded within the same arrangements. This combined approach will help to create and promote a climate of openness and will encourage and support the staff who have genuine concerns about bad practice to speak up and make their voice heard.   


Making arrangements for raising concerns is simply about providing straightforward, practical governance tools and the new guide sets out some simple steps to help employers ensure that their arrangements work. It is not a substitute for good risk management, but getting it right reaps benefits beyond simply detecting issues of patient safety, financial malpractice or other risk.



Most importantly, good arrangements for raising concerns deters wrongdoing and raises the bar on standards and quality. Organisations with formal and transparent mechanisms in place for raising concerns are far more likely to be viewed by their staff as better employers and better service providers.



NHS Employers believes that most NHS organisations already have effective systems in place to allow staff to raise such issues. Over recent years however, there have been a number of high profile cases involving tragic incidents where the systems have not worked. This guide has been launched to remind employers of their responsibilities and to help them create the right environment in their organisation for staff to raise concerns. It also includes a number of case studies, a model policy template and letters to staff to help organisations promote key policy messages.



Further information and copies of the guide can be found the NHS Employers website at:


alternatively, further advice and support for NHS staff can be found on the PCaW website at: http://www.pcaw.co.uk/

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