Taking action when you have concerns is an important part of professional practice, but sometimes it’s difficult to know how to raise concerns appropriately.
Following the publication of the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) whistleblowing policy, this blog post provides more details on who to raise your concerns with, and how and when to do so.
Reporting concerns: your responsibility
When reporting concerns, you have a responsibility to put the safety and wellbeing of service users and carers first. We recognise that registrants take that responsibility very seriously.
As a registrant, you must support and encourage others to raise concerns. You must not cover up any concerns they have, or prevent them from reporting their concerns.
If someone raises a concern with you, you must acknowledge and act on it. This is especially important if you are in a management or leadership position.
A culture that positively encourages and supports health and care practitioners to report their concerns is crucial to keeping service users and carers safe.
The process to report a concern depends on who and what you are concerned about.
Who is your concern about?
If you are concerned about the safety or wellbeing of a service user it is important that you take appropriate action promptly, particularly if the person you are concerned about is a child or vulnerable adult.
Who you approach with your concern will depend on the circumstances. It might be:
- the person you report to at work;
- a person who has responsibility for the service user’s health or care; or
- a person in a position to keep the service user safe.
It will be a matter for your professional judgement, taking into account any policies your employer has in place for raising concerns.
In some circumstances the appropriate person to approach will be your line manager, who may be able to give you advice or guidance. You should be able to discuss your concerns and decide on the appropriate approach to take. In some circumstances it may be appropriate to raise the issue informally. At other times this may not be appropriate and your approach will need to be more formal.
Your professional union or professional body may also be able to give you help and guidance.
There may be times when you are concerned about something sufficiently serious and you will need to consider whether to take more serious action. This may be raising a safeguarding concern if you believe a service user is at risk, or reporting your concerns to the police if you believe a crime has been committed or a service user is in danger.
When raising concerns it is important to consider our confidentiality guidance. Read more about disclosing confidential information in the public interest.
In some circumstances it may be appropriate and effective to raise your concerns with their employer. They can take steps to address your concerns by discussing the issue with the professional concerned, or through their performance or disciplinary process if necessary.
If you have concerns about the fitness to practise of a professional registered with the HCPC, or believe that a registrant is a risk to the public or to public confidence in the profession, you must raise your concern with us.
Read more about raising a concern with the HCPC.
We can only investigate concerns about professionals on the HCPC Register. If your concern is about a professional not on our Register you should raise your concern with their employer or that professional’s regulator.
The HCPC regulates individual registrants, rather than services or practices. Whilst we are not able to investigate concerns about services or practices ourselves, we do expect you to raise any concerns you may have appropriately and promptly.
If you are concerned about the management or practices of a health or social care service you should raise your concern with the relevant responsible body. This is likely to be:
- the Care Quality Commission in England;
- the Care Inspectorate Wales or the Health Inspectorate Wales for services in Wales;
- Healthcare Improvement Scotland or the Care Inspectorate for services in Scotland; or
- the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority or the Department of Health in Northern Ireland.
If your concerns are about a care home, home care agency or other adult social care service you can also contact the relevant local council.
What is whistleblowing?
Whistleblowing is a way for workers to report wrongdoing in the public interest, without being treated unfairly or losing their job. Examples of wrongdoing are criminal offences, risks to someone’s health and safety, or miscarriages of justice.
Under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, workers can report wrongdoings to specified organisations with ‘prescribed person’ status, such as the HCPC or the NHS. Those who report wrongdoings in this way are protected by law.
If you are employed by the NHS and would like help to raise a concern at work, you can contact the Whistleblowing Helpline for NHS and social care for free, independent and confidential advice. Find out more about whistleblowing for NHS employees.
The independent charity Protect (formerly Public Concern at Work) also provides free, independent and confidential advice on whistleblowing.
What if my concern is not addressed?
- If you have taken appropriate steps and are still worried, you must follow up on your concerns.
- If no action has been taken or you believe your concerns have not been addressed appropriately, you must escalate your concerns. For example, speak to someone more senior or raise the issue in a more formal way.
- If you are worried about the impact raising a concern could have on your employment you can seek the help and advice of your professional body or union, or the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).