GPs told to appoint whistleblower 'guardians' by September

Every GP practice must appoint its own 'freedom to speak up guardian' and update its whistleblowing policies by September next year, according to NHS England guidance.

NHS England has told all GP practices to ‘update their local policies and procedures’ to align with new guidance on supporting whistleblowers by September 2017.

This includes appointing their own ‘freedom to speak up guardian’ so that staff can share any concerns and receive support. This individual must be independent of the management chain and not be the direct employer.

It adds that practices should be proactive in preventing any inappropriate behaviour, like bullying or harassment, or discrimination towards staff who raise concerns.

GP practice guidance

The final Freedom to speak up in primary care guidance was formalised this week by NHS England after taking into account feedback from a five-week consultation period beginning in April.

It follows on from the earlier publication of Sir Robert Francis’ Freedom to speak up report, which he recommended should be adapted especially for primary care, where smaller work settings can present challenges around anonymity and conflicts with employers.

Neil Churchill, NHS England director for patient experience, said: ‘Safety in primary care depends on listening to, and acting on, concerns raised. This new guidance will help ensure that if someone witnesses a risk to patient safety, they can speak out without reprisal and confident that effective action will be taken.

‘A safe NHS is an open and honest NHS where we routinely learn from mistakes and use that learning to improve patient safety.’

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