Scotland politics

Some NHS staff 'afraid to raise concerns'

Hospital Image copyright Thinkstock

Some health workers are still reluctant to blow the whistle on unsafe practices for fear of being victimised, the chief executive of NHS Scotland has admitted.

Paul Gray also said some staff do not raise issues because they believe it would not lead to any real change.

Writing in The Herald, he urged them to "have the confidence to come forward" with any genuine concerns.

He added: "You will be listened to and your concerns will be investigated. And you should tell me if they are not."

NHS Scotland staff can raise concerns about patient safety and malpractice through a confidential whistleblowing helpline.

Alert Line has been running for about three years and it is run by Public Concern at Work, an independent whistleblowing charity.

Fear of consequences

But Mr Gray, who is also the Scottish government's director of general health and social care, said more could still be done to encourage people to raise any concerns they have.

"When I meet staff and trade union representatives, I ask them about their concerns. The answers are interesting, and varied," he wrote.

"Some say that they don't think that there would be any point - nothing would happen if they raised a concern.

"Some say that they fear that there could be consequences for them - perhaps in terms of their career, or a fear of being victimised.

"And others say that they have raised concerns in the past, and nothing happened - or if it did, nobody gave them any feedback. That tells me that there is still something we need to tackle."

Safer NHS

Mr Gray said he always welcomed the fact that staff raise concerns because it ultimately leads to a better and safer NHS.

He added: "There's absolutely no room for complacency here. That's why I will continue to champion a culture where genuine whistleblowers are encouraged, supported and valued in NHS Scotland."

Mr Gray also revealed further details about the role of an Independent National Whistleblowing Officer (INO), planned by the Scottish government.

The findings of a consultation on the role were published earlier this year.

Mr Gray said: "The INO will provide external review where individuals have a legitimate concern about the handling of a whistleblowng case and is a further step in developing an open and transparent reporting culture in NHS Scotland."

He added: "The INO will complement a range of policies and procedures already agreed and in place to support and encourage staff to raise concerns."

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