Whistleblowing: Month Two of Difficult Reading

Jun 20, 2022

Whistleblowing can be another emotionally difficult area of concern for all professionals.

Last month we considered the first of two emotional topics for professionals.

Safeguarding.

  • We follow the series this month with whistleblowing.
  • This blog provides a brief overview.
  • It links to more information for further reading
  • Would your policies support you and assist you in meeting the standards if tested?
  • Do you know what the standards are?

 

Whistleblowing do you know:

  1. What is your “Duty to Report”?
  2. What must you do once you have reported to the HCPC?
  3. What does the HCPC expect you to do to be able to assure the quality of your practice?
  4. What are the usual steps in the whistleblowing process?
  5. What is your professional duty to others?

Consider your responses to the above and then read on…

What is “Duty to Report”?

A reminder from last month’s overview from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Duty to
Report 3rd Edition January 20211

“‘Duty to report’ can be a legal, moral, or professional obligation (either individually or in some combination) to make a statement about a given matter to another person or organisation in a position of authority. Unlike ‘duty of care,’ ‘duty to report’ is not an absolute duty. There may be circumstances where another duty overrides the duty to report. In healthcare, the most common duty that ‘duty to report’ aligns with is the ‘duty of confidentiality.’

Your obligations and ‘Duty to Report’

When considering whether you have a professional duty to report a matter, you must

  • Weigh up and balance the need to report,
  • Against the harm of over-reporting, or unnecessary reporting,
  • And the damage that can be done to professional relationships or relationships with patients.

However, professional, and personal loyalties must not get in the way of reporting matters when it is clearly appropriate to do so.

You must always have an honestly held belief in your concern, and you should have some form of evidence to support your concerns.

You should take a reasonable and proportionate approach to escalating your concern through appropriate channels.”

The HCPC standards of performance, conduct and ethics2 

“You must report concerns, follow up on these and escalate them where necessary.”

HCPC Standards of Proficiency3 

Standard 12 “You must be able to assure the quality of your practice” and cites 8 areas for evidencing in this process.”

When becoming concerned about a professional’s fitness to practice, we have a professional duty to act upon this.

HCPC Reporting Concerns About Safety4 

This covers the individual responsibility to put the safety and wellbeing of service users and carers first. It recognises that registrants take this seriously and that reporting is not always easy. It also states that “as a registrant, you must support and encourage others to raise

“Concerns regarding an individual’s fitness to practise should first be addressed through supervision and/or mentoring processes, which may feed into the appraisal and performance review cycle. Concerns may also be managed by the employer’s capability procedures.”

An individual who raises a whistleblowing concern is protected by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 20205. (PIDA) 

The Act protects workers from detrimental treatment or victimisation from their employer if, in the public interest, they blow the whistle on wrongdoing.

It does not protect all but protects most workers in the public, private and voluntary sectors.

The Act does ‘not’ apply to genuinely self-employed professionals (other than in the NHS), voluntary workers (including charity trustees and charity volunteers), police officers or the intelligence services.

If you have concerns over a professional’s fitness to practice, ensure early advice is sought

Approach the relevant regulatory bodies, or the speak up champions (where applicable).

Ensure that relevant HR processes are robustly followed

If indicated, sections 5 and 6 of the PIDA have more information around disclosure and the type of disclosures which are protected.

Where possible the assessment approach starts with supportive management.

Where indicated, it may raise the competence and the capability of the individual.

Document this fully.

Peer review and appraisal are often used in the management programme.

If these processes are insufficient.

It may lead to regulatory body reporting and a role review and even dismissal.

In the most serious cases e.g., misconduct, assault, and criminal behaviour, seek immediate advice from your professional body/employer.

An immediate suspension may be required whilst an investigation takes place

In the majority of working areas, safeguarding and whistleblowing are not usually everyday occurrences.

But they do occur, and we all must play our part.

Thanks for taking the time to read this far and we invite you to revisit the initial five questions and now ask – can I answer these and do I comply?

If not, or still not sure, we are always here to help.

To help you we have a policy on whistleblowing which includes a phone consultation available to buy in our store.

Additional reading

References

  1. Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Duty to Report 3rd Edition January 2021
  2. HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics
  3. HCPC Standards of Proficiency
  4. HCPC Reporting Concerns About Safety 2019
  5. Public Interest Disclosure Act 2020
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