The Public Services Reform (The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman) (Healthcare Whistleblowing) Order 2020 (the Order) creates the role of Independent National Whistleblowing Officer (INWO) for the NHS in Scotland. The role and functions of the INWO are undertaken by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO). The Order builds on the SPSO's existing powers, as set out in the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman Act 2002.
The aim is to ensure everyone delivering NHS services in Scotland is able to speak out to raise concerns when they see harm or wrongdoing putting patient safety or service delivery at risk. People must be able to raise concerns, confident that they can do so in a protected way, that will not cause them personal detriment. They also need to be confident they have the right to an independent review if dissatisfied with how the concern was investigated.
The INWO has the power to set out principles and a procedure for NHS Scotland providers to use in handling whistleblowing concerns and to provide an independent review stage to this procedure. The high level principles and detailed procedure for investigating concerns set out in the National Whistleblowing Standards (the Standards) were approved by Parliament. They apply to all NHS providers in Scotland, including primary care and contracted providers. They also apply to students, trainees and volunteers as well as all temporary and permanent staff.
The Order and the Standards include the definition of whistleblowing, which is used by all NHS services as well as by the INWO, to identify whether an issue can be considered whistleblowing.
As the final stage of the whistleblowing procedure, the INWO investigate complaints about how concerns have been handled and, where needed, recommend action for the NHS organisation to take. In addition to investigations, the INWO has a national leadership role providing support and guidance to NHS organisations, focusing on appropriate early resolution, and good practice in whistleblowing handling, recording, reporting, learning and improvement.
To ensure those wanting to raise concerns have access to all the information they need in relation to the Standards, the INWO team operate an advice phone line. You can contact the team on:
Freephone: 0800 008 6112
Our advice team is available during the following hours:
- Monday, Wednesday and Friday 9am-1pm
- Tuesday and Thursday 12noon-4pm
This service is open to all NHS providers, staff and members of the public. You can also email us at any time on
The INWO team will be available to offer the following advice:
- Support and advice on the National Whistleblowing Standards
- General enquiries from members of the public.
The team can also be contacted by email at: [email protected]