MSPs want more help for NHS whistleblowers

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Hospital corridorImage source, Getty Images

A Holyrood committee has called for the creation of an "open and transparent" culture in the Scottish health service.

The Scottish Parliament health committee said significant changes were needed to ensure health workers were able to voice their concerns.

It has reported after its inquiry on the subject found one third of NHS staff unwilling to speak up.

The Scottish government has created a new post to make it easier for those with concerns to come forward.

The committee called for the government to go further and recommended it supported the introduction of an external investigative line alongside the existing confidential advice line.

It said the government should review how NHS managers are currently regulated and how that differs from health professionals, potentially creating an imbalance.

The committee also provided recommendations on transparency in corporate governance, calling for NHS boards to become more open and honest about pressures and challenges they face.

Quality of care

Convener Lewis Macdonald said: "The whole purpose of this investigation is to ensure that the culture of the NHS allows for the delivery of the highest quality of care to patients.

"We heard directly from staff, patients, NHS Board members and senior NHS managers. We heard that patients want more and greater involvement in their care and how it is delivered.

"Most importantly, when things do go wrong, there should be greater transparency allowing patients and their families to feel confident lessons will be learned.

He added: "While there are checks and procedures in place it remains inevitable that on occasion things go wrong and it is important these can be quickly identified and not repeated."

The Scottish government has created the post of Independent National Whistleblowing Officer (INWO), aimed at making it easier for those with concerns to bring them forward.

'Honest and open'

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "We have already taken steps, alongside the BMA, to introduce new legally-binding protections for doctors in training and other postgraduate trainees who are whistle-blowers.

"That builds on a range of measures already in place across NHS Scotland, including the whistleblowing alert and advice service.

"All of this is contributing to an increasingly honest and open reporting culture within our NHS, because it is crucially important that people at all stages of their NHS careers feel able and confident to raise their concerns without fear of punishment or retribution."

Scottish Conservative MSP Miles Briggs said: "I hope that this report's recommendations are followed by SNP ministers and we look to build an open and transparent culture in our NHS that will benefit everyone who works in and uses the service."

Anas Sarwar MSP, Scottish Labour's health spokesman said: "Our hardworking doctors and nurses deserve support - not a culture that makes them too afraid to raise concerns."