Protect is reassuring NHS workers it is just a phone call away.
Protect Chief Executive Liz Gardiner said, “Whistleblowing is the best early-warning system in the NHS and now more than ever staff need to feel safe and supported when they speak up and that issues are properly investigated and resolved.
“We want NHS workers who are working under extremely difficult circumstances to feel reassured that they can get independent and confidential advice about whistleblowing by calling Protect.”
Protect handles around 3,000 cases each year through its free, confidential Advice Line. In addition, it trains businesses and organisations on best practice speak up arrangements.
If an NHS worker has a whistleblowing concern, NHS staff can raise the matter internally at the Trust, speak to their Freedom to Speak Up Guardian (England only), or call the NHS Whistleblowing Advice Line SpeakUp for signposting information. For NHS workers in Scotland, they can call the Alert and Advice Line. For strategic advice on how and where they can raise their concerns further, in addition to legal advice as to what their rights are in doing so, they can call the Protect Advice Line.
However, charity Protect says it has been approached by some NHS staff with concerns.
“Some NHS staff have told us they do not feel safe speaking up within their Trust and are not aware of what support channels exist. Our service at Protect is unique – we offer advice on how to raise concerns effectively, as well as explaining whistleblowers’ legal rights” said Protect’s Chief Executive Liz Gardiner.
Dr Jenny Vaughan, Learn Not Blame Lead, at Doctors Association UK, said, “Sadly the Doctors’ Association UK has been approached by many doctors who have been disciplined for raising concerns about lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and been told not to speak to the press. Patient safety is never best served by driving staff concerns underground. Bullying of staff when they speak out about safety is completely unacceptable.”
She added, “Doctors and nurses on the frontline have a right to speak out if they or their families or patients could be at risk. Our health service, both private and public, will only benefit if we learn from each other’s experience and we have a Learn Not Blame culture.”
Protect has the support of a number of lawyers who have agreed to give further support to health and social care workers during the crisis.
Protect Chief Executive Liz Gardiner added, “We hope that employers will listen-up when concerns are raised – but we’re grateful to the many lawyers in our legal support network who have kindly agreed to help, including barristers Daniel Stilitz QC, Mukhtiar Singh, and Joseph England and solicitors Paul Daniels at Keystone Law, Leigh Day Solicitors and Slater & Gordon lawyers – but please call Protect in the first instance”.
If further law firms or Chambers wished to lend their support and advice during the Covid 19 crisis, Protect are co-ordinating whistleblowing support to key workers should it be needed.
Doctor Katie Sanderson, who works in acute medicine, said “Healthcare workers are practising in very challenging conditions. It is crucial that everybody working in the NHS feels able to voice concerns openly, and that they are aware of the appropriate channels to do so. It is important that doctors and others are aware that free, high quality legal advice is available if they need it.”
Protect Advice Line – Tel: 020 3117 2520
NHS Whistleblowing Advice Line SpeakUp: 08000 724 725.
Alert & Advice Line – NHS Scotland
Tel: 0800 0086112