What is Whistleblowing in Health and Social Care?

What is Whistleblowing in Health and Social Care?

Whistleblowing is an act of reporting wrongdoing within an organisation, particularly in cases where the welfare of others, including service users and staff, may be at risk. In the context of health and social care, whistleblowing involves employees or members of an organisation speaking out about unsafe practices, abuse, or neglect that they have witnessed within their workplace that could potentially harm patients, residents, or colleagues.

Whistleblowing Legislation

In the UK, whistleblowers are protected under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA), which was updated by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013. This legislation ensures that individuals feel confident and secure when raising concerns about malpractice or wrongdoing. It provides a legal framework for employees to make disclosures without fear of victimisation, discrimination, or dismissal.

Why is Whistleblowing Important?

Whistleblowing is crucial in health and social care for several reasons:

  • Ensuring Safety: It helps to maintain high standards of care by identifying and addressing risks to patients’ and service users’ safety.
  • Upholding Quality: It uncovers poor or unsafe practices that could compromise the quality of care.
  • Promoting Accountability: It encourages transparency and accountability within organisations.
  • Deterring Wrongdoing: The knowledge that employees can speak up acts as a deterrent to those who might engage in unethical or harmful practices.

The Process of Whistleblowing

The process typically involves:

  1. Internal Reporting: Employees should initially report their concerns internally, following their organisation’s whistleblowing policy. This gives the employer the opportunity to address the issue.
  2. Seeking Advice: If unsure how to proceed, whistleblowers can seek confidential advice from independent bodies such as Protect (formerly Public Concern at Work) or their professional body.
  3. External Reporting: If internal reporting is not successful or appropriate, concerns can be escalated to external bodies such as the Care Quality Commission (CQC), local authorities, or professional regulatory bodies.

Legal Protection as an Employee

Under PIDA, employees are protected from suffering any detriment or dismissal as a result of raising a genuine concern about wrongdoing. This means that they cannot be legally penalised for whistleblowing, provided they:

  • Believe the information disclosed is true.
  • Believe it is in the public interest.
  • Report it to the right person or body.

What Happens When You Whistleblow?

When you raise a concern, it should be treated confidentially and investigated promptly. The outcome will depend on the nature of the concern but could include:

  • Changes to practice or policy.
  • Disciplinary action against those responsible.
  • A referral to a regulatory body for further investigation.

The whistleblower should receive feedback on the outcome of their disclosure and continue to be protected from any form of retaliation.

Whistleblowing is a courageous and professional duty within health and social care. It’s a safeguard for standards, wellbeing, and integrity in the sector. By understanding and promoting a positive whistleblowing culture, we contribute to a transparent and accountable care environment where everyone can feel safe and protected.


What is whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing is the act of reporting concerns about unsafe, illegal, or unethical practices within an organisation, particularly when the well-being of patients or staff may be at risk.

Who can be a whistleblower?

Any employee, including permanent, temporary, trainees, and agency staff, can be a whistleblower if they witness wrongdoing in their workplace.

What types of concerns should be reported as whistleblowing?

Concerns that should be reported include, but are not limited to, patient abuse or neglect, unsafe working conditions, breaches of legal obligations, and cover-ups of any of these.

Is there a difference between whistleblowing and complaining?

Yes. Complaining is when you report dissatisfaction with a service, either as a user or provider. Whistleblowing is reporting wrongdoing that affects others and is in the public interest.

How do I blow the whistle?

You should follow your organisation’s whistleblowing policy, which involves reporting your concerns internally first. If that’s not possible or effective, you can escalate the matter to external bodies.

To whom should I report my concern if I can’t do it internally?

You can report your concerns to external bodies like the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for health and social care services, professional regulators, or independent advice organisations like Protect.

Will I be protected if I blow the whistle?

Yes, under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA), you are legally protected from being treated unfairly or losing your job because you’ve blown the whistle.

What if I face retaliation after whistleblowing?

Any form of retaliation against a whistleblower is against the law. You should report any such treatment to your manager or external agencies. Legal action can be taken if necessary.

Can I remain anonymous when whistleblowing?

You can choose to blow the whistle anonymously; however, it may make it more difficult to investigate your concerns. Confidentiality can be requested if you would like your identity to be protected during the process.

What should I do if I’m not sure whether to blow the whistle?

If you’re unsure, seek confidential advice from an organisation like Protect or consult with your professional body or union representative.

By creating a culture where whistleblowing is understood and supported, health and social care organisations can ensure that they continue to provide safe and effective care for all service users.