Independent external review

Anyone who has raised a concern through this procedure can ask the Independent National Whistleblowing Officer (INWO) to consider the way the concern was handled, the outcome of the investigation, or how the person was treated through the process.  If someone has not been allowed to raise a concern using this procedure, they can also ask the INWO to investigate this refusal, or the concern.

An INWO investigation may include:

  • how the organisation has responded to the concern raised, applied these Standards and investigated the issues raised
  • whether the organisation’s decisions and actions relating to the concern were reasonable in the circumstances
  • how the organisation treated the whistleblower and other people involved, including telling them about any relevant HR procedures
  • the organisation’s wider approach to learning from concerns, including how it supports and encourages a culture of speaking up to improve patient safety and service delivery.

INWO recommends that organisations use the wording below to tell people they can ask the INWO to consider the whistleblowing concern: 

Information about the Independent National Whistleblowing Officer (INWO)

The INWO is the final stage for whistleblowing concerns about the NHS in Scotland.  If you remain dissatisfied with an NHS organisation after its process has concluded, you can ask the INWO to look into your concern. 

The INWO cannot normally look at concerns:

  • where you have not gone all the way through the whistleblowing procedure, or
  • more than 12 months after you became aware of the matter you want to bring to the INWO.

The INWO's contact details are:

Bridgeside House
99 McDonald Road

Freephone: 0800 008 6112  

Time limits for raising concerns with the INWO 

Anyone who has raised a concern and had a final response from the organisation can refer their concern to the INWO within 12 months from the date they became aware of the issue.  (The INWO can decide to extend these timescales in a similar way as the organisation can, as described under 'initial discussion' in the stage 1 procedure.

These Standards and the INWO’s powers come into force in April 2021.  The INWO only has powers to investigate if a concern has been raised, within the correct time limits, and under the procedure set out in these Standards. 

Concerns which have been considered under previous whistleblowing procedures or arrangements (those that were in place before April 2021) must be handled under those procedures, and cannot be reviewed by the INWO.  Issues raised under this procedure can relate to concerns that were first raised before April 2021, but the time limits above still apply. 

If someone raises a concern directly with the INWO before the appropriate organisation has carried out a full investigation, the INWO can provide information and advice.  They can also agree to investigate a concern that has not been raised with the organisation involved if they consider it is not reasonable to expect the person to use their employer’s whistleblowing procedure.  The INWO will approach each case on the principle that it is better for the organisation involved to investigate and identify the learning and improvements that are needed.  The INWO will look at each case individually when deciding whether to accept a concern direct but could take into account, for example, whether the organisation is very small or the issue involves very senior staff.  In limited circumstances the INWO may be able to help make sure concerns are handled appropriately.  This may include, for example, monitoring the progress of an investigation.

Updated: December 1, 2022