The Independent National Whistleblowing Officer (INWO) service for the NHS in Scotland will start in full on 1 April 2021. This has been agreed by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO), who will take on the new role of INWO.
The SPSO shared (draft) National Whistleblowing Standards in January 2020 for implementation by July but the impact of COVID-19 on health services meant that the original date had to be postponed. The Standards set out high level principles and a detailed procedure for investigating concerns.
The newly confirmed date of 1 April 2021 takes into account the pressures of the winter season on the NHS in Scotland as well as the significant risk of a second wave of COVID-19 infections.
By the go-live date, any organisation providing an NHS service should have procedures in place that enable their staff, students, volunteers and others delivering health services, to access the National Whistleblowing Standards. The INWO will then be able to investigate complaints about concerns that have been through the local whistleblowing process.
The introduction of the INWO aims to ensure everyone delivering NHS services in Scotland is able to speak up to raise concerns when they see harm or wrongdoing putting patient safety at risk, confident that they can do so in a protected way that will not cause them personal detriment. It also aims to promote a culture of speaking up in the NHS.
To support implementation, and to ensure those wanting to find out more about the Standards and raising concerns, the INWO will operate an advice phone line from the 1 November 2020. This service will be open to all NHS providers, staff and members of the public via Freephone 0800 008 6112.
The INWO team will be available to offer the following advice:
- information on transitional arrangements, including where whistleblowers need to go to raise concerns before 1 April 2021
- support and advice on implementation of the Standards
- general enquiries from members of the public.