Raising the alarm

A safe space with a culture of transparency can prevent whistleblowing issues in the first place, writes Kim Thomas. But what should optometrists do if they need to highlight malpractice?

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What should an optometrist do if they have concerns about patient safety? In a transparently run practice with good policies in place, raising concerns internally should be the first step. Whistleblower James’s story (see Case study below) could have been wholly avoided if the company had followed correct procedure in the first place. But when the situation calls for exceptional measures, what does the law on whistleblowing say?

The key piece of legislation – applied throughout the UK – is the Public Interest Disclosure Act (1998), or PIDA, which offers protection to whistleblowers from employer reprisals, such as sacking or being passed over for promotion. This is known as a “protected disclosure”. Whistleblowers have the right to redress through an employment tribunal if the employer does take punitive action. 

Since the failings exposed in the Francis report (2015), there has been a growing feeling that PIDA isn’t doing enough to protect whistleblowers. The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Whistleblowing is calling for the law to be strengthened and for the creation of an independent “Office for the Whistleblower”. 

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