Raising Concerns at Work (Whistle Blowing) Policy and Procedure

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1 Raising Concerns at Work (Whistle Blowing) Policy and Procedure Raising Concerns at Work (Whistle Blowing) Policy and Procedure Page: Page 1 of 12

2 Recommended by Approved by Workforce Committee Board of Directors Approval Date 25 th September 2013 Version Number 5.0 Review Date September 2016 Responsible Executive Director Responsible Manager For use by Director of Organisational Development HR Manager All Trust Employees bank staff, agency staff, all self-employed NHS Professionals, trainees, student placements, volunteers or contractors This policy is available in alternative formats on request. Please contact the Corporate Governance Assistant on Raising Concerns at Work (Whistle Blowing) Policy and Procedure Page: Page 2 of 12

3 Change record form Version change release Changed by Reason for change th January th January 2008 L Slaymaker Policy approved th November th December 2011 E Forsyth Minor amendment to the Policy th July th July 2013 V Camfield Policy Group th August th August 2013 V Camfield Revisions following EMT approval th September th September 2013 V Camfield Approval by Board of Directors th November th November 2014 V Camfield Amendment following changes to legislation Raising Concerns at Work (Whistle Blowing) Policy and Procedure Page: Page 3 of 12

4 Raising Concerns at Work (Whistle Blowing) Policy and Procedure Contents 1. Introduction Scope Assurances Procedure How Your Concern Will be Handled Independent Advice and Support Making a Wider External Disclosure Reference to the Media Review and Monitoring Conclusion Raising Concerns at Work (Whistle Blowing) Policy and Procedure Page: Page 4 of 12

5 1. Introduction 1.1 The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA 1998) came into effect from 2 nd July It provides protection to the North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust (NWAS) staff who blow the whistle when raising a genuine concern if they have a reasonable suspicion that malpractice is occurring, has occurred or is likely to occur, and it is in the public interest. NWAS is committed to maintaining the highest standards of patient care in keeping with the Trust values, and to ensure the organisation acts with honesty and integrity in its management systems and processes and to act as a responsible employer and to protect the people within the community that it serves from harm. 1.2 Whilst the legislation does not expressly include reference to volunteers, they are included within the scope of this policy. 1.3 The NHS Constitution advises that all staff and volunteers in the NHS have a responsibility to: To raise any genuine concern you may have about a risk, malpractice or wrongdoing at work (such as a risk to patient safety, fraud or breaches of patient confidentiality), which may affect patients, the public, other staff or the organisation itself, at the earliest reasonable opportunity; NHS Constitution 26 March All of us will have concerns about what is happening at work at one time or another, and usually these concerns can easily be resolved. However, where these concerns are about unlawful conduct, financial or professional malpractice, or risk to patients, it can be difficult to know what to do, especially where a concern may only be a suspicion. 1.5 This policy has been introduced to enable you to raise concerns about any malpractice at an early stage and in the right way. We would rather that you raise the matter when it is just a concern than wait for the proof. If in doubt raise it. 1.6 If something is troubling you which you think the Trust should know about or investigate, please use this policy. If you are aggrieved about your personal position, please use the Trust s Individual and Collective Grievance Policy and Procedure. The Raising Concerns at Work policy is primarily for concerns where the interest of others or the Trust itself is at risk, for example, breaches in health and safety or fraudulent practices. These situations might include being expected to undertake an excessive or unsafe workload, being asked to implement a questionable delegation of tasks or roles, being told to follow potentially unsafe instructions, being expected to work in an environment unsafe for staff or patients or being asked to collude in inappropriate allocation or reduction of resources not in the best interest of the patient. If you are uncertain about whether something is within the scope of this policy you can discuss Raising Concerns at Work (Whistleblowing) Policy and Procedure Page: Page 5 of 12

6 this with one of the individuals set out at section 4. You can also use the external resources set out at section The Trust is committed to the elimination of discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, transgender, sexual orientation, religion and belief, disability, age, caring responsibilities and any other form of discrimination. NWAS actively promotes equality of opportunity for all and this policy must be applied equitably across the Trust. 1.8 This policy provides guidance for: Identifying the rights and duties of staff/volunteers; Setting out the process to be adopted by staff/volunteers who wish to raise a concern; Providing a mechanism to be used in exceptional circumstances where all other avenues have been exhausted. 2. Scope 2.1 This policy is intended to cover ALL employees of the Trust, bank staff, agency staff, all self-employed NHS Professionals, trainees, student placements working for NWAS (herein known as NWAS staff). In addition, all volunteers are expected to adhere to this policy. 2.2 This policy will apply in cases where individuals genuinely believe that one of the following sets of circumstances is occurring, has occurred or may occur within NWAS: a criminal offence has been committed, is being committed or is likely to be committed; a person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with any legal obligation to which he or she is subject; a miscarriage of justice has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur; the health and safety of any individual has been, is being or is likely to be endangered; the environment has been, is being or is likely to be damaged; information tending to show any matter falling within any one of the preceding paragraphs has been, is being or is likely to be deliberately concealed. 2.3 Examples of malpractice which qualify as protected disclosures under PIDA 1998 include (but are not limited to) the following: Abuse or mistreatment of service users; Exposing service users to unacceptable or unnecessary risk; Acts of fraud and theft against the organisation or service users; Raising Concerns at Work (Whistleblowing) Policy and Procedure Page: Page 6 of 12

7 Procuring or accepting bribes from service users, staff or other third parties (e.g. suppliers of goods or services); Dangerous Health and Safety situations and breach of fire regulations; Deliberately concealing information relating to any malpractice; and Staff working under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 2.4 It is not necessary that individuals prove the breach or failure that they are alleging has occurred or is likely to occur, but may simply raise a reasonable suspicion. To obtain protection under this policy the individual must reasonably believe that the issue is in the public interest. 2.5 It should be noted that they will not be protected from the consequences of making such a disclosure if, by doing so, they commit a criminal offence or if they do not act in a reasonable and responsible manner. 2.6 The Policy has been developed in partnership with Trade Unions recognised under the NWAS Recognition Agreement. 3. Assurances 3.1 Your Safety and Security The Trust Board is committed to this policy. If you raise a genuine concern, you will not be at risk of losing your job or suffering any form of retribution as a result. 3.2 Your Confidence NWAS will not tolerate the harassment or victimisation of anyone raising a genuine concern. Disciplinary action may be taken against any staff who treat a whistle blower detrimentally, because of the concern they have raised. Detrimental treatment includes dismissal, disciplinary action, threats or other unfavourable treatment connected with raising a concern. If you believe that you have suffered any such treatment, you should inform either your manager or the persons set out in section 4 immediately. If the matter is not remedied you should raise it formally using our Grievance Procedure. 3.3 However, we recognise that you may, nonetheless, want to raise a concern in confidence under this policy. If you ask us to protect your identity by keeping your confidence, we will not disclose it without your consent. If the situation arises where we are not able to resolve the concern without revealing your identity (for instance your evidence is needed in court or in the event of disciplinary action), we will discuss with you whether and how we can proceed. 3.4 Anonymous Complaints - If you do not tell us who you are it will be much more difficult for the Trust to look into this matter, protect your position or give you feedback. The Trust will consider what action may be justified by an anonymous report on the information available. Raising Concerns at Work (Whistleblowing) Policy and Procedure Page: Page 7 of 12

8 3.5 Personal Support NWAS recognises that this can be a stressful experience for all concerned. The Trust will take reasonable steps to assist all parties affected through any stress or difficulty from the raising of a concern, including access to a free confidential counselling service. 3.6 If Trust management is satisfied that a concern has been raised maliciously then they may consider disciplinary action. 4. Procedure 4.1 When raising the concern, it should be explicit that the disclosure is being made under the Raising Concerns at Work Policy to assist the Trust in accurately recording and progressing concerns. 4.2 The person making a formal disclosure should as soon as practicable disclose in confidence the grounds for the belief of malpractice or serious risk to an appropriate manager. Any disclosure under this procedure shall, wherever possible, be in writing. The person making the disclosure should provide as much supporting evidence as possible about the grounds for his or her belief although there is no requirement to prove the malpractice allegations. 4.3 If the person receiving the formal disclosure does not feel that this policy is appropriate to use they may make reference to other organisational policies that exist for dealing with concerns. For example: Safeguarding Policies Disciplinary Policy Grievance Policy Bullying and Harassment Policy 4.4 STEP ONE Preferably, any concern that you have must be personally observed or experienced. If a friend or colleague tells you about malpractice you must encourage them to report it. A concern should first be raised with your manager, giving the nature of your concern and the reasons for it. This can be done verbally or in writing. You may also invite your union or professional body to raise this matter on your behalf. A meeting will be arranged to discuss the concern and you have a right to be accompanied by a representative of your union or professional body or invite your representative to act on your behalf. Raising Concerns at Work (Whistleblowing) Policy and Procedure Page: Page 8 of 12

9 4.4.2 In cases of suspected fraud you should follow the Trust s Counter Fraud and Corruption Policy and report your concern to the Local Counter Fraud Specialist and/or the Director of Finance. 4.5 STEP TWO If you feel unable to raise the matter with your line manager or you do not feel this is appropriate or Step One has not worked then please contact either: a) Head of Service in your area; or b) Head of Human Resources This can be done verbally or in writing. You may also invite your union or professional body to raise this matter on your behalf. A meeting will be arranged to discuss the concern and you have a right to be accompanied by a representative of your union or professional body or invite your representative to act on your behalf. 4.6 STEP THREE If Steps One and Two have been followed but have not worked or you feel that the matter is too serious and you cannot discuss it at either Step One or Step Two, then please contact the Corporate Secretary at Headquarters, Ladybridge Hall. The Corporate Secretary will ensure the complaint is referred to the relevant member of the Trust Board. Please note however, that the Chief Executive is the Accountable Officer for the Trust and will need to be informed of any concerns about malpractice referred to the Trust Board Contact can be by telephone, via or in writing and all correspondence should be marked in confidence to be opened by the addressee only and again NWAS staff and volunteers are requested to explicitly state that they are making a disclosure under the Raising Concerns at Work (Whistle blowing) Policy. 5. How Your Concern Will Be Handled 5.1 Once an issue of concern is raised it will be considered, and a decision made as to how best to proceed and what action will be taken. This may involve an internal enquiry or a more formal and possibly independent investigation. A response will normally be sent within 28 days of the concern being raised. This response will summarise the concerns raised and advise on how the matter will be handled. The response will also include confirmation on whether the Trust will be investigating the matter and provide indicative timescales of an investigation if appropriate. The individual will also be advised of who is responsible for handling the matter, how they can be contacted and whether further assistance may be required of them. Raising Concerns at Work (Whistleblowing) Policy and Procedure Page: Page 9 of 12

10 5.2 If individuals have a personal interest in the matter they should make this clear at the outset. While the purpose of the policy is to enable the Trust to investigate possible malpractice and take appropriate steps to deal with it, feedback will be offered to the individual where it is possible to do so. It may not be possible to relate the precise details and action taken where this would infringe a duty of confidence owed by the Trust to a patient or third party. 5.3 A designated officer may decline to become involved on reasonable grounds. Such grounds include previous involvement or interest in the matter concerned, incapacity or unavailability or that the designated officer is satisfied that a different designated officer would be more appropriate to consider the matter in accordance with this procedure. 6. Independent Advice and Support 6.1 It is strongly recommended that advice is sought from the free, confidential service provided by the Royal Mencap Society; this is the nominated national provider of whistle blowing advice for NHS staff. Their contact details are: Free telephone: Alternatively, employees may contact Public Concern at Work, a charity offering free advice on raising whistle blowing concerns. Their contact details are: Confidential Telephone: Website: Making a Wider External Disclosure 7.1 Examples of wider external disclosures include disclosures to MPs and Prescribed Regulators as well as to others. 7.2 It is strongly recommended that advice is sought from the free, confidential services, listed at Section 6, if considering making a wider external disclosure either before or after exhausting the internal disclosure procedures listed at Section 4. They will be able to advise you, for example, of the correct Prescribed Regulator, if that is the category of person you wish to make a protected disclosure to When making a disclosure to a Prescribed Regulator staff MUST ensure that they: Identify the correct Prescribed Regulator to make their disclosure too. Raising Concerns at Work (Whistleblowing) Policy and Procedure Page: Page 10 of 12

11 Have a reasonable belief that the disclosure falls within the remit of that Prescribed Regulator. Have a reasonable belief that the allegations are substantially true. 7.4 NWAS staff and volunteers are also advised that wider disclosures may be protected disclosures under very particular circumstances. As with disclosures to Prescribed Regulators, the discloser must reasonably believe the allegations are substantially true, does not make the disclosure for personal gain and, in all the circumstances the disclosure is considered reasonable In addition a further pre-condition to secure protection for a wider disclosure must be met. This is either: The person reasonably believed he/she would be victimised if the matter was raised either internally or with a prescribed regulator; or There was no prescribed regulator and he/she reasonably believed the evidence was likely to be concealed or destroyed; or The concern had substantially already been raised with the employer or a prescribed regulator without being addressed in a timely manner; or The concern is of an exceptionally serious nature. 7.5 NWAS staff and volunteers should note that failure to meet these requirements means that they may not qualify for protection under this policy. 8. Reference to the Media 8.1 When a member of staff has exhausted this procedure, they may as a last resort, contemplate the possibility of disclosing their concerns to the media. Any member of staff/volunteer contemplating such a disclosure is advised first to seek specialist guidance from professional and other representative bodies, as well as discussing the disclosure to the media further with an appropriate manager in the Trust. The Trust would expect any member of staff/volunteer to inform either the Assistant Director of Communications and Public Relations or a Communications Officer before they approach the media. In guiding staff members the Trust would not wish to prevent individuals discussing specific issues with the media providing the following criteria have been satisfied: The matter has been raised and pursued through the internal procedure detailed above; Information shared with external sources does not directly or indirectly compromise the absolute right of confidentiality for individual patients and privacy for other members of staff; Raising Concerns at Work (Whistleblowing) Policy and Procedure Page: Page 11 of 12

12 Any facts or information used, which may give rise to public concern or undermine public confidence in the Trust must be a fair and accurate reflection of the position to the best of their knowledge. 8.2 NWAS staff and volunteers should note that failure to meet these requirements means that they may not qualify for protection under this policy. 9. Review and Monitoring 9.1 The Director of Organisational Development is responsible for monitoring overall compliance with this policy. 9.2 This policy will be reviewed every three years; unless there is a required for this to be reviewed earlier. 9.3 This policy will be monitored. Information will also be collated on the number of cases in the organisation and presented to the Workforce Committee. This will be undertaken in such a way to protect the confidentiality of the individuals. 9.4 The Policy will be available to all employees on the intranet and will also be retained in Human Resources. 10. Conclusion 10.1 North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust is a publicly funded body and recognises the legitimacy of public interest in its affairs. By setting out a clear and simple framework for raising genuine concerns about wrong doings or malpractice, and by guaranteeing full protection to workers who raise such issues responsibly, the Public Interest Disclosure Act and this policy address the issue in a constructive and effective way. Raising Concerns at Work (Whistleblowing) Policy and Procedure Page: Page 12 of 12

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