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Practices must support ‘whistleblowers’

19 October 2011

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Practices will need to pledge support to staff who raise concerns about poor patient care under changes to the NHS Constitution, the government has announced.

The government wants to ensure health staff who raise concerns about poor patient care are protected in the future.

All NHS organisations will need to ensure staff concerns are fully investigated and that there is someone independent, outside of their team, to speak to.

Changes to the constitution, to be made in early 2012, will also make it clear that it is the duty of all NHS workers to report bad practice or any mistreatment of patients receiving care from the health service.

The amendments follow a public consultation on whistleblowing and the NHS Constitution.

The constitution will include the “expectation” that staff should raise concerns at the earliest opportunity.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “The first lines of defence against bad practice are the doctors and nurses doing their best to care for patients.

“They need to know that they have a responsibility to their patients to raise concerns if they see risks to patient safety. And when they do, they should be reassured that the government stands full square behind them.”

Cathy James, Chief Executive of UK whistleblowing charity Public Concern at Work, said: “This is a step in the right direction and seems to be a genuine attempt to strike the right balance between supporting individuals who speak up and the responsibilities of organisations.

“If this positive message is to be felt by those on the frontline, organisations need to take this seriously.”