Every NHS Trust in England must appoint a guardian to support whistleblowers.

The recommendation was made by Sir Robert Francis, who led the public inquiry into Stafford Hospital.

He has recently undertaken a review into whistleblowing in the NHS, called the Freedom to Speak Up Review.

The document draws upon evidence collected from 600 people about their experiences, and from 19,000 other people who responded to an online survey.

It concludes that NHS staff remain reluctant to raise concerns because they “fear victimisation” or feel they will be ignored.

Sir Robert said he “heard some frankly shocking stories about [staff] whose health has suffered, and in rare cases who’ve felt suicidal as a result of their perception of them being ignored or worse.”

Freedom to Speak Up Review

In an attempt to counter a culture in which staff face “bullying and being isolated” when they speak out, Sir Robert has recommended that:

  • A guardian is appointed in every NHS Trust to support staff, particularly junior members
  • A national independent officer is appointed to help guardians when cases are going wrong
  • A new support scheme is set up to help NHS staff who have found themselves out of a job as a result of raising concerns
  • Processes are established at all Trusts to make sure concerns are heard and investigated properly

The government has accepted all his recommendations and is now consulting on how best to implement them.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt also said that legislation would be enforced to ensure whistleblowers were not discriminated against when applying for jobs in the future.

“Serious issue within the NHS”

A number of initiatives have been launched in recent years in an attempt to combat the cover-up culture in the NHS.

However, Sir Robert says the problem is far from resolved. He said: “There is a serious issue within the NHS. It’s not just about whistleblowing, it is fundamentally a patient safety issue.”

“The NHS is blessed with staff who want to do the best for their patients. They want to be able to raise their concerns free of fear that they may be badly treated when they do so and confident that effective action will be taken.”

Medical negligence Bristol

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