Case study

  • Date:
  • Category:
    Concern moving from Stage 1 to Stage 2
    Serious concern requiring Stage 2 investigation
    Staff feeling vulnerable


An experienced hospital administrator was working in a team of ten, which had significant staff turnover and had to manage several process changes in the past 12 months.  
They had been off work recently, due to a disagreement between them and their team leader, which had been causing stress.  They had recently returned to work, but the team were aware of ongoing tensions between the administrator and the team leader.

Six months previously a new process had been introduced for monitoring cancer waiting times, to improve the performance of cancer services.  The aim was to improve the identification of any breaches in national standards and improve processes.  A new supervisor was brought in to oversee the new scheme.

On their return from work, the administrator had concerns that the data they worked with had been changed incorrectly.  They suspected that the supervisor had been changing these records.  They spoke to their team leader who listened to their concerns, but was sceptical about the evidence, and did not feel it was appropriate for them to challenge the supervisor with so little clear evidence.  They agreed to take the concerns through the whistleblowing procedure and the team leader opened a stage 1 concern.

The team leader called a team meeting to discuss these concerns, in the supervisor's absence.  Other members of the team were aware of on-going tensions with the team leader, and when they were asked if they had noticed any issues with their own records, nobody speaks up.  The team leader did not feel they could pursue the concerns any further and closed the whistleblowing concern.

The administrator continued to have concerns about data being changed, and they contacted the NHS Scotland Confidential Alert Line.  They were advised that they could take their concern to a senior manager, as their team leader had not been able to resolve the situation; this would initiate stage 2 of the whistleblowing procedure.  They also highlighted that they would be able to access a range of support and protection through the whistleblowing procedure.  The administrator was concerned that taking their concerns to someone more senior would antagonise the team leader and create further tensions.  However, their concerns were significant and they were not willing to let it go.  

The administrator emailed a senior manager to raise these concerns.  The senior manager organised a meeting with the administrator and they reviewed the situation in detail.  The senior manager provided contact details for the employee counselling service, and explored ways in which the data issue could be investigated with minimal input from the administration team.  The administrator was also put in touch with another administrator who had gone through the whistleblowing procedure, and was happy to provide support through the investigation process.

The administrator was keen to have their name kept completely anonymous, particularly in any communication with the team leader.  This approach was agreed.

The investigation took several weeks, as an internal audit was initiated using colleagues in IT.  During this time the senior manager kept the administrator up-to-date through letters sent to their home address.  

At the end of the investigation, the supervisor was found to be repeatedly changing records to ensure they met the national standards.  This falsification of records was taken forward through disciplinary procedures.  The senior manager wrote to the administrator to inform them of the outcome of the investigation and thanked them for coming forward.  They were also signposted to the INWO if they do not think that this concern has been resolved.
The senior manager also wrote to all members of the team to ensure that everyone was informed of the outcome and what this meant for their work going forward.  

The team leader's manager also stepped up their oversight of the team to ensure that new procedures for monitoring were implemented effectively and that the team were able to work efficiently together, including encouraging openness and learning within the team.  They also worked with the team leader and the administrator to improve their relationship so that they could work more effectively together.

Updated: January 9, 2020