How we safeguard whistleblowers in our processes

In March 2015 we published findings from an independent review by Sir Anthony Hooper QC. It explored concerns that doctors had been inappropriately referred to us by employers, after they had raised issues about patient or public safety.

He made eight recommendations to help prevent our processes being used against doctors who have raised concerns.

Find out more in our response to the review and plan of action.

Our process to protect doctors against unfair referrals

We have a process to make sure referrals from employers about doctors into our fitness to practise procedures are fair and appropriate.

As part of the process, referrers now need to complete a form. It asks:

  • whether the doctor they’re referring has previously raised public interest concerns and if those concerns have been investigated
  • whether the doctor knows about the referral
  • them to declare that the referral is being made in good faith and is accurate and fair.

When we know that a doctor has previously raised patient or public safety concerns, we seek independent corroboration of the allegations in the employer’s referral. This helps us decide if we need to carry out a full investigation. If a full investigation is needed, we let our decision makers know about the whistleblowing history, so they can take this into account when weighing the evidence.

If we close the case with no action, we discuss why the referral was made with the doctor’s responsible officer or suitable person. 

Making sure revalidation recommendations are fair and appropriate 

We’ve updated our guidance for responsible officers and suitable persons on making revalidation recommendations for doctors.

It says responsible officers or suitable persons must speak to their employer liaison adviser before they submit a consecutive deferral or non-engagement recommendation for a doctor who has raised public interest concerns.

We’ve also introduced a process, to allow doctors to tell us if they think that raising a concern has affected their revalidation. We consider this information before we make any decisions about withdrawing a doctor’s licence to practise.