International Whistleblowers Day

Even the word ‘whistleblower’ is challenging and can invoke all sorts of emotional and physical reactions. Three years in, our INWO team are acutely aware of this, and how difficult it can be for people to speak up confidently about their concerns. 

We are all familiar with the mantra of “learning from concerns” but this can be hard to put into practice when investigating an issue which highlights the need for significant changes in process, monitoring or approach. This is even more challenging at a time when people and resources are stretched to the limit. The earlier an issue is identified, the sooner action can be taken, which is why promoting and maintaining a speak up culture is so important. The sooner your teams raise issues, the sooner you can address their concerns and potentially avoid even more resourcing challenges in the future. 

We at INWO promote the safe application of the whistleblowing standards, as a supportive enabler of a good speak up culture. Strong whistleblowing processes are an essential safety net for when speaking up during business as usual does not make the whistleblower feel safe. We are here to support NHS providers in Scotland with resources, tools, advice and guidance to help them establish and maintain effective whistleblowing processes. These processes will actively protect the whistleblower, and anyone else involved in an investigation, from detriment and harm. 

It may be a lofty aim, but we want a Scottish NHS in which staff speak up confidently, safely and willingly, supported by a speak up culture which discusses difficult issues openly and sensitively; and learns from them. We work closely with NHS providers to help them have systems and processes in place to not only support the individual, but also to conduct robust, fair and safe investigations. We recognise that we are all still on this journey, so equally, we want whistleblowers to know INWO is here for them too, with advice and guidance. 

Emerging data is encouraging. In 2022-23, NHS Boards reported receiving 91 whistleblowing cases. Over that same period just 12 were escalated to the INWO. That suggests around 80% of people who raised a concern, felt satisfied with the local response, and felt heard and responded to. 

We are not complacent and know that there is still lots for us, collectively, to do. Keeping an open dialogue going is essential and we look forward to Speak Up Week (30 Sept – 4 Oct 2024) when we will hear about the range of speak up culture initiatives NHS Boards have or are putting in place. Why not join us and engage with our campaign and events during that week.

Francesca Richards 
Independent National Whistleblowing Officer Team Manager

Updated: June 24, 2024