Whistleblowing and The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (UK) (“PIDA 1998”)

All public sector organisations are at risk of, or affected by, fraudulent or corrupt activity. From the standpoint of FDNH, such activity may impact upon the safety and/or well-being of patients in a hospital facility. If you work in a public body (such as a hospital), you have a critical role to play in deterring and tackling such abuse.

PIDA 1998 provides strong protection for workers who blow the whistle on – or raise a genuine concern about – malpractice. The protection is most readily available when the whistle is blown internally. Your employer’s whistleblowing policy will tell you how you can safely raise a concern. It should also explain the role your union can play.

If you have not been told about whether a whistleblowing policy is in place or you are still not certain as to what to do, it is always perfectly safe to obtain legal advice. If you wish, you can contact Public Concern at Work (“PCW”) for free, confidential advice on 020 7404 6609 or at helpline@pcaw.co.uk.

PIDA 1998 also protects a range of external whistleblowing and also provides a special disclosure route for workers in the NHS and other government-appointed bodies.

If you want to know more about how PIDA 1998 works and the rules on protection, ask your employer or your union or visit the PCW website at www.whistleblowing.org.uk. PCW is the leading authority on whistleblowing. Established in 1993, it provides confidential advice to employees, employers and governments.

What to Do and What Not to Do

Do raise the matter – the sooner that the problem is raised and looked into, the sooner any wrongdoing can be stopped and the sooner you and others can be reassured that matters are in order.

Do pass on any reasonable suspicion to someone in authority – This is usually your manager or the internal audit office. Alternatively, you may wish to contact the director of finance or the monitoring officer.

Do remember key details – If possible, make a note of key details, such as what caused your suspicion, when things happened and who was involved.

Do not turn a blind eye – If you are worried that some wrongdoing is taking place at work, please do not keep it to yourself. Being wise after the event does not assist anyone.

Do not investigate the matter – You may make matters worse if you do. It’s your job to raise the concern, not to prove it.

Do not report your suspicions to someone who does not have proper authority – There are special rules provided for the gathering of evidence to be particularly applied in criminal cases. Attempts to gather evidence by persons who are not familiar with these rules can inadvertently compromise or otherwise damage the case.

Do not delay – As you will not be asked to prove your concern, you need to raise the matter as soon as it is a concern. You should not wait in order to acquire some proof of the matter. If you have a concern about something that you feel ought to be addressed, your efforts should be directed to trying to ensure that you do not raise the issue in such a way that makes you appear to be a complainant.

Here are some questions (that are geared to working in a hospital facility) to bear in mind if you are unsure as to whether or how to raise a concern:

  1. Is someone (e.g. a patient) unaware that they are being exposed to a risk that you would not take or expose your own relations to?
  2. Do you believe any of your colleagues or your team would answer the question the same way?
  3. If the tables were turned and someone had a concern about your clinical practices, how would you want them to raise the issue?
  4. How can the risk be addressed so that the least damage is caused to the colleague involved?
  5. Have you talked to your colleagues or your team? (If not, why not?)
  6. Can you find a solution within your team?
  7. If not, does your Hospital / Trust have a whistleblowing policy which tells you who to talk to?
  8. If not, who in the hospital will be dealing with the fallout if your concern is not raised and it proves well founded?
  9. In any event, is there a trusted senior colleague or friend you can discuss the issue with first? Did you know you can ring Public Concern at Work in confidence on 020 7404 6609 to discuss whether or how to raise the concern?

Some other questions you may sensibly ask yourself are:

  • If you've known of the risk for some time, why are you minded to raise the issue now?
  • What do you think would be a satisfactory outcome?
  • What obstacles are there to it?
  • What is your motivation?

Before you blow the whistle, it's always a good idea to be very clear about the limits of your own responsibility. First, a whistleblower is a witness, not a complainant. Secondly, a likely consequence of not blowing the whistle is the management saying "Why didn't anybody tell us?" or "If only we had known …" The treatment, then, should be to let the facts speak for themselves and allow those responsible to take an informed decision. A brief note of HELPFUL HINTS to RECAP follows in conclusion: -

You are worried about something that is going on at work but you are unsure about what to do OR you have raised a concern but are anxious that it has not been addressed AND the issue is of public concern and as such affects a third party (such as members of the public, clients, customers, other staff, the reputation of your organisation).

PCW can help you at any stage. However, the earlier PCW get involved, the more likely it is that they will be able to help to resolve the issue. All too often PCW are contacted too late in the day when positions have become entrenched and irreparable damage has been done. However, PCW CANNOT help in the following instances You want advice on general employment rights; You want advice on problems relating to discrimination, harassment etc (unless you believe that you are being treated in this way because you have raised a public interest concern); You are in a disagreement with your employer (unless the disagreement is about a whistleblowing concern).