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More questions than answers? Whistleblowing report 2018

Last week’s joint report from healthcare regulators on whistleblowing was interesting for many reasons. The report appears as a result of all “Prescribed bodies” having a new legal duty to publish   whistleblowing disclosures made to them by workers.

Over 60 prescribed bodies exist in the UK. These are organisations and individuals that a worker may approach outside their workplace to report suspected or known wrongdoing. For example, the joint report details cases from the: General Dental Council (GDC), General Medical Council (GMC), Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC), General Chiropractic Council (GCC), General Optical Council, General Osteopathic Council, General Pharmaceutical Council, and Health & Care Professions Council. Of interest in the context of our study is that the National Guardian’s Office is a prescribed person.

The joint report shows that between in 2017/18, the GDC who regulate 111,00 workers received 61 whistleblowing disclosures. By contrast, the NMC who regulate more than 690,000 professionals, reported 60 such cases. The GMC, which has a register of around 298,000 professionals, received 23 whistleblowing disclosures. The GCC received no disclosures.

A few points of interest…

What do the numbers tell us?

When the total numbers regulated by each body is considered it is obvious that the GDC received proportionally far more disclosures than the NMC and GMC (however see below for more on the NMC). Why this occurs is an interesting question. Could it be because most dentistry is provided in primary care settings, where there are fewer robust clinical governance frameworks compared to other forms of healthcare? Alternatives to whistleblowing or disclosing concerns, such as Freedom to Speak Up Guardians, are less present or absent in dentistry. A larger proportion of concerns may, therefore, become whistleblowing disclosures to be dealt with by the regulator

Coordinated learning effort?

The new joint report highlights the regulators’ coordinated effort to work together in handling serious issues. Regulators also express their wish to improve collaboration across the healthcare sector. This is laudable but there is no little or no information about the nature and outcomes of the coordinated effort. For example it would be very useful to know

  • whether the GDC disclosure rate been considered by the GMC or the NMC in relation to their regulated primary care workforce?
  • what leaning has occurred across the regulators – how might things be done differently for the 2018/19 reporting period?

Whistleblowing rates about nursing and midwifery & the NMC’s response to whistleblowing disclosure

In total, 371 pieces of information were assessed by the NMC against the whistleblowing criteria. Of these, 60 (16%) were recognised by the NMC to be ‘qualifying disclosures’ as they met all of the whistleblowing criteria. This is, by some distance, the highest rate of non-qualifying disclosures. For example, all of the 61 disclosures received by the GDC were considered ‘qualifying disclosures’. It is therefore important that the total numbers of concerns raised/disclosures are looked at. Looking only at the numbers that are deemed qualifying disclosures may provide an incomplete picture. In response to this disparity the NMC state that “we are considering clarifying our whistleblowing guidance on our website”. Watch this space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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