What do contractors and primary care providers need to do now?

Implementation of the National Whistleblowing Standards by contractors - preparations for 1 April 2021

The National Whistleblowing Standards (the Standards) come into force on 1 April 2021.  From that date onwards, all NHS providers delivering services on behalf of the NHS in Scotland must have a whistleblowing policy and procedure in place that complies with the Standards.  This must be accessible to all staff, students and volunteers providing services on their behalf.

In the run-up to 1 April 2021, and beyond, NHS boards will need to ensure that their contractors are aware of their responsibilities and the requirements of the Standards.  Ensuring compliance with all contractors by 1 April 2021 may not be fully possible, but boards must:

  • Set up systems that enable contractors to report into them, and for these reports to link in with other whistleblowing and wider clinical governance reporting arrangements.
  • Develop risk based action plans that:
    • identify all their contractors that deliver NHS services
    • communicate with all contractors to set out the requirements in the Standards
    • assess risk of non-compliance, eg in relation to clinical service delivery and contract management, and use this to prioritise follow-up and
    • work with contractors to enable staff to raise concerns about the NHS services they deliver, focusing first on highest risk contracts.
  • Be able to demonstrate that this action plan is in place and actively being progressed to work towards full compliance.
  • Ensure that all new contracts include requirements for contractors to implement the Standards in full, including:
    • having systems in place to comply with the Standards and
    • reporting to the board on concerns raised and resolved by them, and demonstrate learning from them. 

If a concern is raised with the INWO about a contractor, our investigation may consider whether reasonable steps have been taken to ensure compliance with the Standards.  During the transition period, we will take into consideration the circumstances of the case, how and when it was raised with the board or service provider, and how much notice they had of requirements to implement the Standards.

INWO expectations of contractors is set out clearly below.  This text can be shared with contractors, along with the self-assessment checklist, if appropriate.


Requirements for contractors

The Standards cover the delivery of any NHS service by any organisation (including private and third sector providers)  The definition of whistleblowing in the Standards includes any risk of harm or wrong-doing in relation to the delivery of that health service, in the public interest.  Any contractors that deliver services on behalf of the NHS are therefore obliged to comply with the requirements of the Standards. 

To inform what this means, the INWO has produced a compliance self-assessment checklist.  This includes a comprehensive list of the key requirements from the Standards and enables providers to check that their policy and procedures are compliant.  Once providers have met all elements of this checklist, they will be compliant with the Standards.

Boards may want to use this checklist as a way to gain assurance that a contractor is meeting their obligations.  They will also need to set up reporting systems, so that whistleblowing concerns that are raised and resolved by a contractor are reported to the board.

Contractors will be expected to share details with their staff (and others that work in their services, such as students and volunteers) about how they can raise concerns, who to raise them with and what they can expect of the process.  All NHS providers can access the INWO training modules to help inform their staff of what this means for them.


Download compliance self-assessment checklist for NHS providers

Updated: March 16, 2021