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Bulletin from the SPSO
Independent National Whistleblowing Officer (INWO)
February 2021

This bulletin provides an update from the SPSO about:

  • New communications resources available on the INWO website
  • National Whistleblowing Standards staff roles: Focus on confidential contacts
  • Reminder of training for staff
  • Contact with NHS boards
  • Advice phone line and support for implementation

We want to provide this information to as wide an audience as possible, so please pass this bulletin on to any colleagues who may have an interest. 

New communications resources on the INWO website

Getting information out to staff about the new National Whistleblowing Standards (the Standards) will be fundamental to their success. It is important that each NHS provider shares the right information with staff, students and volunteers. It is also important to publicise what arrangements are in place for raising concerns at the local level.

To help with this, the INWO team have developed suggested text which can be used in your local communication materials. The suggested text provides key messages and information which are accurate and concise, for boards and other NHS providers. Local communications teams are encouraged to adapt this content for leaflets and webpages, adding local contact details and logos, and any other additional content as appropriate. Please access the materials on our website. We are also in the process of developing some posters for use by boards, which will be available from 1 March 2021.

We also have new detailed information on our website for anyone wanting to raise a concern. This includes definitions of what is and what does not count as whistleblowing and how NHS staff can raise concerns. Please visit our webpages for staff here.
National Whistleblowing Standards staff roles: 
Focus on confidential contact
The Standards set out key staff roles and responsibilities. One of the most important is the local ‘confidential contact’ or whistleblowing ambassador. 
So who is the confidential contact?  Every NHS provider must ensure their staff have access to someone who can provide them with information about raising concerns, a safe space to discuss their concern, and assistance in raising their concern with an appropriate manager.  The key elements of this role are to:
  • promote a culture of trust
  • promote the value of raising concerns as a route to learning and improvement
  • ensure that frontline staff are aware of and have access to support services when they raise concerns
  • assist managers in using concerns as opportunities for learning and improvement
  • (for NHS boards) work with the board’s Whistleblowing Champion to ensure that all staff are aware of the arrangements for raising concerns
  • work with the chief executive (or equivalent) and whoever oversees application of the Standards, to ensure they are accessible at all levels of the organisation
Confidential contacts have the interpersonal skills and the ability to work with people at all levels in the organisation.  Their role entails having a good understanding of the barriers people may face in raising concerns, and having a willingness to overcome them to enable staff, students and volunteers to raise concerns safely

If you are a newly recruited confidential contact or would like to understand more about the role, please contact the INWO team (see the contact details below).
Training for staff on the National Whistleblowing Standards
With the Standards going live on 1 April 2021, boards are gearing up for implementation.  Part of this drive will be ensuring staff understand how and when to raise concerns.  The INWO’s two learning programmes provide all the information staff will need.  There is:
  • One for staff who need an overview of the Standards, which takes around an hour to complete.
  • One for managers, which takes two to three hours to complete.
The learning programme for managers is longer and more in-depth. This reflects their extra responsibilities for responding to concerns raised under the Standards.
The programmes are hosted on NHS Education Scotland’s Turas website (link opens in a new window). A certificate is available on completion of each learning programme.
If you have any questions about the training please contact the team at
Contact with NHS boards
The INWO continue to receive enquiries from boards as they prepare for implementing the new whistleblowing procedures for 1 April 2021. We are delighted that boards are pro-actively seeking help to ensure that they are ready. We would welcome contact from any board and are happy to give clarification and advice on preparing for the Standards.
Information and advice phone line

To assist NHS organisations with implementation, and to ensure those who want to raise concerns have access to all the information they need about raising a concern, the INWO team operate an advice phone line.  You can contact the team on:
Phone: 0800 008 6112

This service is open to all NHS providers, staff and members of the public.  The INWO team will be available to offer the following advice:
  • Information on transitional arrangements, including signposting whistle blowers who need to raise concerns before 1 April 2021
  • Support and advice on implementation of the Standards
  • General enquiries from members of the public.
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