Whistleblower hotline is launched for NHS staff in Scotland

hospital bed The government said lessons must be learned to ensure the best possible service to patients

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A free, confidential phoneline has been launched to allow employees to raise any concerns about practices in NHS Scotland.

The National Confidential Alert Line for NHS staff is a year-long pilot.

The trial was first announced in November following a BBC investigation into hospital safety.

More than 300 reports into the most serious incidents in Scotland's hospitals in 2011, including 105 deaths, were published by the BBC.

At the time First Minister Alex Salmond expressed his sympathies to patients and families who had "experienced care which fell short of standards which we all expect".

The role of whistleblowers was noted in a recent auditors' report into allegations of fiddled waiting-time data in the NHS in Scotland.

Audit Scotland, which scrutinises the way public money is spent, investigated NHS boards after the problem was found in Lothian.

In a report last month, the organisation said: "In order to safeguard patients' interests, it is important to have effective whistleblowing policies and an environment where people can raise concerns safely and know that they will be acted upon."

The launch of the phoneline also comes in the wake of the Francis Inquiry, which uncovered "appalling" failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust in England.

Concerns investigated

Scottish Health Secretary Alex Neil said all NHS workers should feel able to raise concerns safely and confidentially.

He added that following the Francis Inquiry, staff should be reassured that health boards would listen.

The phoneline, 0800 008 6112, will pass any concerns raised by employees on to the employer or the relevant regulatory organisation for investigation.

Mr Neil said: "All areas of concern must be investigated and lessons will be learned to ensure that the NHS in Scotland is providing the best possible service to patients.

"We already have whistleblowing policies in place. Staff can be assured that these policies will be enforced and the alert line will give staff the best possible support."

The line is being delivered by Public Concern at Work, an independent organisation, with the aim of ensuring confidentiality and impartiality.

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