Last year, in response to the recommendations following the Freedom to Speak Up Review, the Scottish Government gave a commitment that the role of an Independent National (Whistleblowing) Officer would be developed and established to provide an independent and external level of review on the handling of whistleblowing cases, and that the detailed proposals would be subject to consultation.
A full public consultation on detailed proposals for the introduction of the INO role ran for 12 weeks and closed on 10 February 2016.
We received 58 responses from a range of organisations and individuals. Our proposals have been welcomed with strong support.
In the main respondents considered that the role of the INO should be to consider concerns raised about the application of local whistleblowing processes, including examination of the decision making and outcome of the concerns raised.
Most respondents were supportive of the INO taking a holistic approach to examining complaints and agreed with our view on the principles and processes on how concerns should be raised. In particular, the emphasis on the INO being the final stage in the process was broadly welcomed.
There was also strong support for the INO having statutory powers, as without these it was felt that the effectiveness of the role would be curtailed. Furthermore there was a view that such powers would provide the INO with credibility and would generate respect.
There was a recurring view that the INO role should be hosted within the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman (SPSO) and strong support for giving employees of adult health and social care services access to the INO.
The most popular title for this role was "Independent National Whistleblowing Officer for NHSScotland".
The Scottish Government has made clear its commitment to develop and establish the role and functions of an INO for NHSScotland.
We have considered the range of views expressed in the consultation and an independent analysis of the responses has been published. This is available at http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/06/4326.
We will use the findings of the analysis to further inform and refine proposals to ensure that the INO is equipped to carry out the role effectively, and we will give further consideration to the arrangements for hosting the role.
We are clear that the INO should have the ability to provide independent challenge and oversight and should have the powers and functions that enable it to do so.
We will look at the main themes that emerged on support for the role, and provide further clarity over roles and relationships with existing bodies and initiatives, terminology, and the review process.
In line with the views expressed within the consultation the new role will be called the ‘Independent National Whistleblowing Officer for NHSScotland’. We will consider introducing legislation to bring the role and functions into effect. This will complement policies already in place to promote, support and encourage whistleblowing and further develop an open and honest reporting culture in NHSScotland.
Whilst recognising an appetite for the role of the INO to extend to those providing adult health and social care services who are not employed by Health Boards, we will progress the role for Health Board staff at this stage. We have taken this view given the emerging landscape of adult health and social care integration and the wide range of views expressed on this subject, and views expressed that some of the proposed INO functions are held already within existing regulatory bodies for social care. This will allow for more detailed analysis and consultation with appropriate stakeholders to ensure that our approach to this is correct.
The Scottish Government and NHSScotland value our established Partnership working arrangements and the contribution from a wider variety of interested stakeholders. We will continue to work together with our partners to make sure that staff are protected when raising concerns.