Everyone at NHS Shetland strives to do their best every day for the Shetland community in the delivery of health and care services. Despite best intentions, things do not always go to plan and we can always learn and improve. NHS Scotland has seen examples where people have been aware of problems that could cause harm but have not had the confidence to try and make a change. Sometimes when people have raised issues they have felt ignored or they have feared that they will be blamed for “rocking the boat”. This can put people off trying to raise concerns about patient safety or the level of care for patients in the first place.

Accepting lower standards can cause low morale and reduce our ability to achieve the best quality outcomes for all. Ultimately staff need to feel free to raise issues early, without concern of any consequences to themselves so that everyone is actively participating in improving patient safety.

National Whistleblowing Standards set out how all NHS service providers in Scotland must handle concerns that have been raised with them about risks to patient safety and the effective delivery of services. They apply to all services provided by or on behalf of NHS Scotland, and must be accessible to all those working in these services, whether they are directly employed by the NHS or a contracted organisation. They also apply to students, trainees and volunteers.

Since 1st April 2021, NHS Shetland, along with all NHS Boards in Scotland has committed to undertake thorough and objective reviews of issues raised by staff which meet the Whistleblowing Standards. We have developed clear processes as part of the implementation plan and we will monitor these accordingly.

Joe Higgins Non-Executive Whistleblowing Champion for NHS Shetland provides critical oversight and helps us work towards a culture of openness. There is also a Whistleblowing Executive lead, Medical Director Kirsty Brightwell, who is responsible for ensuring the implementation of the standards.

The Standards apply to issues raised which have happened in the last 6 months and are in the public interest. These include:

  • Risk of harm/wrongdoing
  • Patient safety
  • Patient care
  • Poor practice
  • Unsafe working conditions
  • Fraud
  • Falsifying information
  • Breaking legal obligations
  • Abuse of authorities
  • Covering up issues in the workplace

Staff who raise a concern will be offered a confidential conversation. If their concern is deemed to constitute whistleblowing then the individual will be offered support and their confidentiality will be protected. Their concern will be investigated and the outcome reported to them. If the individual feels the outcome is not satisfactory they can raise this with the Independent National Whistleblowing Officer who will investigate the Board’s response.

We continue to raise awareness of the Whistleblowing Standards and the training requirements for those with different roles and responsibilities in this regard within NHS Shetland. There is a useful summary of the organisational roles and responsibilities at: https://inwo.spso.org.uk/governance-nhs-board-and-staff-responsibilities.

To find further information about the Whistleblowing Standards, the role of the Independent National Whistleblowing Officer and training, guidance and resources, please see: https://inwo.spso.org.uk/national-whistleblowing-standards

To see our annual reports please see: Whistleblowing Annual Assurance Reports – NHS Shetland

Resources for staff