Scottish Labour has today (Thursday) called for a national confidential whistleblowing hotline to be set up for NHS staff to raise concerns about patient care.

Scottish Labour’s call comes a Royal College of Nurses (RCN) survey found that more than a third of nurses in Scotland (37%) have been discouraged or told directly not to report their concerns about issues such as patient safety and staffing levels at their workplace. This compares to 24% in a similar survey in 2009.

The survey also showed that the overwhelming majority (84%) said they would be concerned about victimisation, personal reprisals or a negative effect on their career if they were to report concerns.

Scottish Labour is also calling for a register of concerns to be set up that would be reported on at Board meetings and Local Area Partnership meetings so that senior managers are aware of concerns being raised. Given 55 per cent of nurses reported that no action was taken when concerns were raise, Scottish Labour is also calling for a report on actions taken to be routinely published.

Speaking following raising the issue at First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister, Dr Richard Simpson MSP, said:

 “Our NHS staff make life and death decisions every day and working day-in-day-out in our hospitals they know better than anyone the issues facing our NHS and often spot problems first.

 “It is deeply worrying that increasing numbers of nurses are being discouraged from raising concerns about patient safety and staffing levels and 84 per cent of nurses are concerned about reprisals if they report a problem. Alarm bells should be ringing in the SNP government. There is a real risk that problems currently being reported are just the tip of the iceberg.

 “Staff in our NHS do an excellent job, but with the SNP government cutting over 4,000 staff, including over 2,000 nurses and midwives, staff are being placed under increasing amounts of pressure. Our fear is that as the SNP’s £327m cuts to the health budget and further staff cuts begin to bite, corners could be cut and patient safety compromised.

 “The time has come for the creation of a national whistleblowing hotline so NHS staff at hospitals across Scotland can anonymously report their concerns. It is disappointing that the Health Secretary has, so far, not responded positively to Scottish Labour’s calls.

 “We need to know that when concerns are raised they are being properly dealt with. That is why we are calling for a register of complaints to be set up that would be reported on at Board meeting so that senior managers are aware of problems in our hospitals and action is being taken.”