Health and Sport Committee consultation on the proposals for new Independent National Whistleblowing Officer role


About the Inquiry

The Health and Sport Committee has launched a consultation on the Scottish Government proposal for the role of a new Independent National Whistleblowing Officer role as set out in:

The Committee is also considering the SPSO proposals for new standards for health services handling whistleblower concerns:

These proposals relate to the extension of the jurisdiction to include whistleblowing concerns for NHS Scotland’s services. This would mean that the Ombudsman would become the Independent National Whistleblowing Officer (INWO) for Scotland. 

The proposed extension would give the Ombudsman the legislative powers to: 

a.  Develop a set of standards for NHS services which all NHS organisations would need to follow when they receive and investigate whistleblowing concerns. 

b.  Investigate concerns raised by whistleblowers, as a final, independent review of these concerns, including how the health service handled the whistleblowing concerns and if it acted reasonably in making any decision. 

c.  Investigate how a whistleblower has been treated by their employer. 

Committee's previous consideration of NHS whistleblowing

The issue of whistleblowing has been previously explored by the Health and Sport Committee as part of its inquiry The Governance of the NHS in Scotland – ensuring the delivery of the best healthcare for Scotland

The Committee raised a number of concerns regarding the need to ensure a culture of openness and transparency with mechanisms in place for staff to raise concerns in an environment where the support and guidance offered to NHS staff is both valued and trusted. 

The Committee also recommended that further changes should be made to the current whistleblowing system. This included the establishment of an investigative line for whistleblowing. Also, that NHS boards should be allowed to appoint Whistleblowing Champions that are individuals others than non-executive board directors with staff involvement in recruitment.

Committee approach

The Committee agreed at its meeting on 7 May 2019 to take evidence on the draft regulations.  This entailed a general call for written views from 8 May to 22 May 2019 (see Evidence section below).

The Committee held a formal evidence session with stakeholders on 28 May 2019, followed by evidence from the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport.


The Committee held an oral evidence session on 28 May, followed by evidence from the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport. 

Official Report of meeting - 28 May 2019

The Committee published its report "Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) (Healthcare Whistleblowing) Order 2019 - Proposed Regulations" on its findings, including recommendations to the Scottish Government, on 25 June 2019 and this can accessed via the Health and Sport Committee Reports webpage.


To support this work the Committee issued a call for written views which ran from Wednesday 8 May to Wednesday 22 May 2019.

Read the call for written views

Read the written submissions


Following the evidence session on 28 May the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman issued a letter to our Convener on a question raised during the meeting.  The question was whether the SPSO knew of other examples of an order dependent on a third-party that was not subject to parliamentary scrutiny.


The Committee published its report on the proposed regulations on 25 June 2019. 

The Committee received a response to the report from Jeane Freeman MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport on 2 September 2019.

Following the response from the Cabinet Secretary on 2 September 2019, the Committee issued a further letter on 12 September 2019.

The Committee received a response from the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport on 23 September 2019.

Next Steps

The Committee received a notification from the Scottish Government on The Public Services Reform (The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman) (Healthcare Whistleblowing) Order 2020, and its Explanatory Documents, on 28 October 2019.

The Committee agreed at its meeting on 29 October 2019 to issue a call for written views on the draft order, which ran from Tuesday 29 October to Tuesday 12 November 2019.

Read the call for written views here

Read the written submissions received here

The Committee then held an evidence session on 19 November 2019 with the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport and the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.  The Official Report of the meeting can be read here.

The Committee reported on 21 November 2019 and approved the Order.

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