On June 27, Robin Swann, the Health Minister for Northern Ireland, announced two public consultations on model frameworks, one about whistleblowing and the other about workplace violence and aggression.
According to the news release, the consultations “will seek views on how we protect Health and Social Care (HSC) staff and provide an environment in which they feel safe and confident to carry out their duties and to raise concerns if need be.”
Swann highlights the importance of whistleblowers, stating: “The capability for anyone to raise a concern with HSC bodies in the interests of the public is an intrinsic means of ensuring services continuously improve and that patient safety is assured.” He added, “It is crucial that we create an environment for individuals, be they staff or service users, to raise concerns which fall under the public interest and feel confident that they are safe to come forward and report these using the appropriate channels.”
The press release states that the Department of Health “engaged with HSC bodies and Trade Unions to develop a draft regional policy in relation to Raising a Concern in the Public Interest (Whistleblowing).” The work to develop the policy stemmed from a review conducted by Northern Ireland’s Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA). RQIA’s review investigated “the operation of Whistleblowing arrangements within HSC organisations.” According to Swann, the review provided “recommendations in relation to ensuring accountability within HSC organisations in relation to patient safety and improving services through a focus on identifying misconduct, poor practice and lessons learned, which this policy will play a part in addressing.”
The consultation, undertaken by the Department of Health’s Pay and Employment Branch, is seeking comments on the final draft of the Raising a Concern in the Public Interest (Whistleblowing) HSC Framework and Model Policy, according to the consultation information document. The consultation is seeking input from health bodies and professionals as well as the general public, and individuals are able to submit comments from June 27 to August 26. Responses can be submitted online, via email to P&E@health-ni.gov.uk, or by sending a hard copy of a comment to: Workforce Policy Directorate, Room D1, Castle Buildings, Stormont, Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast BT4 3SJ.
The other consultation Swann announced on June 27 relates to a draft framework on Violence and Aggression in the Workplace. The document is “[a] framework for HSC employers and staff to prevent, reduce and respond to violence and aggression in the workplace.” Individuals can submit to the consultation in the same ways listed above.