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The new policy has been developed by Monitor, NHS England and the NHS Trust Development Authority (TDA) and is the first of its kind for NHS staff.
It aims to improve services for patients and the working environment for staff across the health sector by supporting them to raise concerns and improving how services learn from them.
The proposals detail who can raise concerns, how they should go about doing so and how organisations should respond, as well as setting out a commitment to properly investigate concerns when they are reported.
Tom Grimes, Monitor’s Head of Enquiries, Complaints and Whistleblowing, said: “We want to encourage a culture where raising concerns becomes normal practice in the NHS and foster an environment where concerns are taken seriously and investigated properly.
“We will support the NHS to improve services for patients and a key part of that is listening to its staff and learning lessons. But this will need commitment throughout NHS organisations, from members of the board to those working in frontline services.”
Dr Kathy McLean, Medical Director at the NHS TDA said: “We know that when trusts take concerns seriously and investigate them properly they are often the ones which provide the best standard of care and treatment to patients. It is hugely important that trust boards are able to listen to what their staff have got to say and then use that to take action to deliver improvements for patients. This policy should help them do just that.”
Dr Mike Durkin, NHS England Director of Patient Safety, said: “If any member of NHS staff witnesses something that could put a patient at risk of harm it is vital they feel confident they can speak out without reprisal and that their concerns will be acted upon and indeed that they are positively encouraged to make improvements themselves. A safe NHS is an open and honest NHS where we routinely learn from mistakes and use that learning to improve patient safety. If we are to truly put our patients first, we must create a culture where owning up to mistakes and speaking out about poor care is fully encouraged and embraced. This policy should support that.”