Whistleblowing and responsibility
The UK law related to whistleblowing changed significantly at the end of June with the result that legal protection for employees who report wrong-doing by their employer is only now afforded to those raising allegations of public interest. In other words, now the element of “good faith” required previously has been removed, disputes over personal issues, such as pay or performance management which lack a public interest element, will no longer be protected under the legislation.
So perhaps you should ask yourself; should I be blowing a whistle and what is the purpose?
Team members are often the first to realise that there is something amiss within the practice. However, they may not wish to express their concerns as they may feel that speaking up would be disloyal to their colleagues or to the practice.
Whistleblowing should primarily encourage and enable team members to raise serious concerns within the practice rather than overlooking a problem or 'blowing the whistle' to an external body. It is important that every organisation, whether it be a dental practice or even a body such as the Care Quality Commission (CQC) itself recognises their responsibilities and takes them seriously and intelligently.
Raising awareness of serious concerns when you work within an organisation asks a lot of the individual and this is the reason why it is necessary to emphasise that they are protected in law by taking appropriate actions. It should be a clearly stated Policy that the practice recognises that the decision to report a concern can be a difficult one to make. If what you are saying is what you believe to be true, you should have nothing to fear because you will be doing your duty to the practice and the patients alike. Furthermore the practice will not tolerate any harassment or victimisation and will take appropriate action to protect the team member who raised a concern in good faith.
Sometimes circumstances have a habit of being rather more intertwined don’t they?
Whenever there is a problem within a dental practice, whether this relates to patient care directly or working relationships; it is wise to attempt a locally agreed solution. Usually a discussion of the circumstances involving all relevant team members will itself point to the correct solution. However sometimes the problem may be so serious or the reaction of the management so ineffective that as a GDC Professional Registrant you feel compelled to take matters further. Whilst doing this, it is extremely wise to examine one’s own position carefully. A thorough investigation will include all parties. All concerns will be treated in confidence and whilst every effort should be made not to reveal the identity of the team member who raised it; at the appropriate time they may need to come forward as a witness.
So that’s clear is it?
I want to encourage everyone to re-confirm the legitimacy of their intending whistleblowing and to be certain that they have:
· Disclosed the information in good faith.
· Believe it to be substantially true.
· Not acted maliciously or made false allegations.
· Not sought any personal gain.
These points could have a significant bearing if you are shown to have decided to speak to the Press or acted in connection with another practice or organisation which work in competition.
There may have been a number of situations where organisations have been subjected to malicious whistleblowing. I imagine that it’s not a pretty sight and I’m afraid it would have a habit of rebounding badly on the perpetrator as well as the victim. Some of these people may even have found it necessary to leave Dentistry.
The more one thinks about it; the more one can see that whistleblowing can be used in a positive way for the general good, but equally it can be used in a negative malicious way.
One may envisage a situation where a regulatory body has experienced ‘difficulties’ with a Provider and has then approached another regulatory body to re-examine the Provider. This used to be referred to as ‘double jeopardy’, although now it could even be triple jeopardy. You may possibly feel that such things could never happen in this fair Country of ours; I couldn’t possibly comment.
How to raise a concern in your practice
As a first step, anyone with a concern, should raise it either verbally or in writing with the Practice Manager or the Principle if it involves the practice manager.
All concerns must be taken seriously and the team member treated with respect and dignity. The matters involved should then be investigated and the team member advised of what is happening at all times.
Thank you for reading this and whichever of the R’s you feel you may be; Registrant, Regulator or Registrar, I would like to remind you that the use of intelligence, proportionality and responsibility are not your exclusive rights.
RightPath4 is committed to the highest possible standards of openness, probity and accountability. In line with that commitment we look forward to working with all dental practice teams to help them be the best they can be and be justifiably proud of their achievements.
RightPath4 will continue to work on behalf of those in peril on the C, whether that be CQC or GDC and you may be interested in inviting us to visit you. We hope that you will find that you can spend a small amount of money, very wisely!
You could arrange a practice visit from me for as little as £275.00.
Have a look at our website