For us, whistleblowing is when someone providing a service for the NHS in Scotland, speaks up - in the public interest - about something that has either happened, or not happened yet, that could cause a risk of harm, or wrongdoing.

You can find the full definition of whistleblowing and some examples of the kind of things that might be classed as whistleblowing here.

Anyone providing a service on behalf of the NHS in Scotland can raise concerns using the process in the National Whistleblowing Standards. This includes employees, contractors, volunteers, students and people providing NHS services in primary care and health and social care partnerships (HSCPs). People who have recently left the service of the NHS can whistleblow too.

Follow the links for more information on who can raise a whistleblowing concern and arrangements for people who are not directly employed by the NHS.

HR grievances 

A whistleblowing concern is different to a grievance but the two can sometimes be confused. A grievance is typically a personal complaint about an individual’s own employment situation (for example a complaint about unfairness or discrimination) and it is not made in the public interest. An issue is more likely to be a grievance when it is just about what is happening to you, for example, "I am unhappy with the way my manager speaks to me".

In contrast, a whistleblowing concern is raised in the public interest, so it has wider impact. The person raising a whistleblowing concern could be a witness with no direct personal involvement in the concern they are raising. They may simply be concerned about the impact of working practices that they think could be risky or harmful to patients or colleagues . For example, "I have seen a manager pressuring the staff on their team to see more patients than they can safely handle, and it is impacting on their ability to provide good patient care".

All NHS Scotland employees are covered by a separate Grievance Policy and a Bullying and Harassment Policy. Other employers will have their own policies. If you are a member of a union, your workplace representatives will be able to provide advice on these processes. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) can also provide impartial help and advice on your rights in the workplace. More information on whistleblowing and grievances can be found here.

Patient complaints

Whistleblowing is different to making a complaint as a patient. Whistleblowing does not normally include healthcare professionals complaining about NHS services they have personally received as patients.

If you wish to complain about the care or treatment you have received from the NHS, you can access the complaints procedure of the relevant health service provider. The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman is the final stage for complaints about public service organisations in Scotland, including the NHS.

Updated: January 23, 2024