Personal Injury, Serious Injury & Clinical Negligence

Whistleblowing and Freedom to Speak Up Guardians in the NHS

The concept of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians was introduced by the Francis review in 2015, following a study during the summer of 2014 of whistleblowing processes in the NHS.

Following this, each NHS trust in England has appointed a local guardian and a national guardian to oversee them, Dame Eileen Sills DBE was also appointed. However, these steps only dealt with NHS Trust leaving those in primary care organisations without equivalent measures.

Modern healthcare recognises the importance of the patient experience including complaints in developing best practice and part of the feedback needs those involved in delivering healthcare, to be able to raise concerns without fearing a backlash in the workplace.

On 1 April 2016, Neil Churchill, Director for Patient Experience for NHS England announced the measures that were being taken to deal with this in primary care, saying:

There is no greater insight in the drive for NHS improvement than that gained by listening to patients, families and staff.’

He went on to say that a consultation had started on guidance for primary care organisations on ‘how they can encourage staff to share concerns’.

He also stated:

Ultimately, the most powerful drivers of improvement are the conversations between NHS staff, patients and their families. The NHS is at its most effective when we are open and responsive to what people say.

As from 1 April 2016 NHS England also becomes a ‘prescribed person’. This enables workers to approach the organisation outside their workplace to report suspected or known wrongdoing. Where there is authoritative or oversight relationship within a sector the body can be designated in this way.

What this means for primary care is that those working in general practice, dentistry, ophthalmology and community pharmacy can now raise concerns direct with NHS England with appropriate employment safeguards, as if they were making a disclosure direct to their employer. It is hoped that this will encourage earlier and direct reporting of matters relating to safety issues.

If you or a member of your family have been affected by a Patient Safety incident and need advice about raising your concerns with the NHS, please contact a member of our Medical Negligence Team on 0800 316 8892 or e-mail