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NHS England wants GP whistleblower 'guardians' by next year

All GP practices will have to appoint a whistleblower ‘guardian’ by April next year, under draft guidance published by NHS England.

Under the plans, each primary care provider will have to provide a named individual to whom staff can turn to raise concerns and receive support.

NHS England, which is consulting on the guidance over the next five weeks, specifies that the new ’freedom to speak up guardian’ has to be ’independent of the line management chain and not the direct employer’.

The guidance follows recommendations made by Sir Robert Francis QC in his Freedom to Speak Up report into a culture of bullying in the NHS, published in February last year.

His report suggested the GP contract should include a standard for allowing staff to ‘raise concerns freely’, noting that a smaller work setting can present challenges round anonymity and conflicts with employers.

NHS England’s draft guidance says that:

  • Each provider should name an individual, who is independent of the line management chain and is not the direct employer, as the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian. They can offer support and listen to staff raising a concern;
  • NHS primary care providers should be proactive in preventing any inappropriate behaviour, like bullying or harassment, or discrimination towards staff who raise a concern;
  • All NHS primary care providers should review and update their local policies and procedures by March 2017, to align with the agreed guidance.

NHS England suggested that in larger GP practices or federations, the guardian could be someone within the organisation, but that smaller practices could make an arrangement with, for example, another local practice; with the local hospital freedom to speak up guardian; someone in the CCG; or the NHS England responsible officer.

Neil Churchill, NHS England’s director for patient experience, said: ‘This guidance builds on existing good practice, gives staff in primary care more options to share any concerns and sets out our expectations about how those concerns should be handled.’

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the GPC had yet to be consulted on the plans, which ’must not just simplistically impose a single whistleblowing solution to GP practices, regardless of size and type’.

He said: ’The real elephant in the room is how we can whistleblow regarding concerns to the wider system problems GPs face, such as inappropriate demands being made of them - like being asked to arrange patient care and prescribe beyond their competence and being asked to take part in schemes with perverse incentives.

’This focuses on the microcosm of the GP practice. The far bigger issue here is not being determined in practices but in the wider environment.’

But Dr Andrew Mimnagh, a GP in Sefton, said: ’It has been easy in the past to say the right thing to the wrong person and be punished for it, especially if management systems are complicit. If you can say the right thing to the right person then yes, that would be useful.’

Readers' comments (15)

  • NHSE is hellbent in making the profession unattractive as possible!

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  • Whistle away my merry boy,
    With happy heart and face of joy...
    (in secret services of NHSE)
    But what are they looking for?

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  • Vinci Ho

    The bottom line is to define the principle and behaviour of the 'guardian' : allegation can be so easily met by counter-allegation. GMC , for example , is supposed to be by default 'guardian' and controversy surrounding its behaviour in handling allegations ,is still our ongoing debate ......

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  • There are so many unbelievable stories, I'm finding it difficult to tell which are april fool's joke!

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  • you would have to be mad in the uk to whistleblow. just google and search to see what happens to doctors who blow the whistle. consultant lost his job, trainee lost his training number...the list goes on. you do have to be an idiot to whistleblow.

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  • The system is at fault yet its leaders are still looking for individuals to blame. GPs are whistleblowing across the UK about the state of general practice. Exactly how is dobbing in our below average colleagues (and that's 50% of us) going to help?

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  • Just look at how large trusts have treated whistleblowers. You'd be mad to whistleblow if you hoped to work in NHS again. We need a change of culture not more s*dding diktats. If you raise an incident report with NHSE they just about crush you with blame and bureaucracy! There should be an easy way to report problems.

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  • We have been whistleblowing on how bad are our NHS managers and our CEO- Mr Hunt,
    but it all falls on deaf ears. This is all politically driven.

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  • The thief wants to liquidate competition:)

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  • What's the point of being 'an independent' contractor when the thought police in the government can dictate the work environment ar such a mind numbing micro scale??
    It's truly oppressive

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