· News

All NHS trusts must have whistleblowing policies so staff feel able to raise concerns about malpractice

The NHS Staff Council has agreed that all staff working in the NHS have a contractual right and a duty to raise with their employer genuine concerns about malpractice, patient safety or other serious risks they consider to be in the public interest.

The agreement, which will be included in the NHS terms and conditions of service handbook, also says that NHS organisations must have local ‘whistleblowing’ policies in place which emphasise that it is safe and acceptable for staff to raise concerns at work and set out clear arrangements for doing so.

Local policies should be developed and signed off in partnership with local staff representatives and be reviewed on a regular basis and use of the policy monitored.

Greg Allen, employer side chair of the NHS staff council and director of HR and workforce development at NHS Devon, said: "NHS organisations must continue to take malpractice and wrongdoing seriously. All staff should know that that they have a responsibility and obligation to raise concerns responsibly without fear of discrimination or punishment. This agreement offers some straightforward and practical steps for local employers to promote and deliver a culture of openness."

And Mike Jackson, staff side chair and senior national officer (health) at trade union Unison, added: "Putting effective whistleblowing policies into hospitals across the country will be a major step forward – shining a light on malpractice and leading to better patient care.

"We must create a climate where staff feel they are able to raise their concerns without the fear of reprisals. It is now down to local trusts and unions to put policies in place and make sure they work."

The Staff Council agreement follows the Social Partnership Forum guide called Speak up for a Healthy NHS that was launched in June and endorsed by secretary of state for health Andrew Lansley MP. This provides guidance to employers on how to implement and review whistleblowing arrangements.