The barrister leading the review into whistleblowing in the NHS has urged all NHS workers, employers and representative organisations to come forward with ideas to create a more open and honest reporting culture in the NHS.

Sir Robert Francis QC, who was appointed by the government earlier this year to conduct the “Freedom To Speak Up” review says he wants all NHS workers to feel they can speak up without fear of reprisals or victimisation. He insists that anyone who does so when things go wrong in the NHS should be welcomed for the information they bring and the contribution they can make to patient safety.

However, as he himself acknowledges, this has been far from the case in the past and that the review therefore needs to look at the obstacles that may prevent people from coming forward and identify measures to remove them.

The House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts welcomed the review when it published a report earlier this month about whistleblowing in the public sector. This found that “far too often” whistleblowers were badly treated and that those who came forward “have had to show remarkable bravery”. It also pointed out that, if employees are to trust the system for handling whistleblowers, they must be confident that they will be taken seriously and that they will be protected and supported by their organisations if they blow the whistle.

The Francis Review is particularly interested in:

  • Making it easier for worried staff to raise important concerns with someone independent from their manager, or even their employer
  • Better recording of concerns raised and the action taken on them
    Arm’s length scrutiny where conflict arises when someone speaks up
  • Better procedures to ensure that honestly speaking up about important issues does not adversely affect careers without impeding the fair management of proper concerns about staff
  • Mediation or other assistance by third parties to help resolve disputes
  • Better means of retaining the services of those who have unfairly lost their jobs for doing the right thing.
  • Emma Game from Thompsons Solicitors commented: “Employees can often be fearful of whistleblowing due to the criticism they may face from their employer and the fear of being punished or perhaps even dismissed. The legal protection afforded to employees who are subjected to a detriment as a result of whistleblowing is complex and this can make an employee even more reluctant to come forward. A more open and transparent system is therefore to be welcomed.”

To read the Public Accounts Committee report, go to: