The whistle-blowing helpline for NHS staff is being extended to staff and employers in the social care sector from 1 January.
There is also a new number for the service, which encompasses all of the elements of the current helpline service and is free, independent and confidential.
The new helpline number will be 08000 724 725.
The helpline will operate on weekdays between 08.00 and 18.00 with an out-of-hours answering service available at weekends and on public holidays. A web-based service is also being developed.
You can contact the helpline if you have concerns but are unsure how to raise them or simply want advice on best practice.
The currently government-funded service will also change to a free-phone service provided by the Royal Mencap Society.
Mark Goldring, Mencap chief executive, said: ‘This initiative will give NHS staff and social care workers the confidence to report abuse or raise concerns about patient and service user safety without fear of victimisation or personal reprisal.
‘Through a free dedicated helpline we will provide confidential advice to individuals on how to report poor service, and we will advise organisations on how to develop best practice policy.
‘As an organisation that supports vulnerable people we take whistleblowing very seriously and understand the importance and the need for this essential service.’
Dean Royles, director of the NHS Employers organisation said: ‘Having a culture where staff feel able to raise concerns is essential. It’s good to have a national support line from a well-known and respected organisation and we look forward to working with them to develop support to employers that will assist them in implementing best practice and support staff to report concerns.’
Julie Jones, chief executive at the Social Care Institute for Excellence, said: ‘It’s really important that staff are able to discuss issues and concerns over safeguarding adults at risk. For instance, our Social Care TV film on safeguarding in care homes shows how safeguarding isn’t a taboo subject; it’s always on the table if people want to discuss it. As health and social care staff increasingly work together, it’s sensible to share a whistle-blowing helpline, so that, if all other factors fail, service users and their families can be reassured that staff have this option.’
Cynthia Bower, Chief Executive of the Care Quality Commission, said: ‘Health and care professionals have a responsibility to raise concerns if they believe that patients or people who use services are being put at risk. The first course of action should be to raise these concerns within your organisation - but if you feel unable to, or if your voice is not being heard, it’s important to know that there are other options open to you. That’s why this helpline is so important.’