New powers for the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

The role of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) has been expanded to include how whistleblowing complaints are handled

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman's (SPSO) role will include checks on whether NHS bodies are following correct procedures when concerns are raised.

The SPSO operates the final stage of the complaints procedure for many Scottish public bodies, including the NHS. On 8 January 2020, legislation was amended to expand the range of complaints the SPSO can investigate to include concerns raised about how a whistleblower's complaint has been dealt with by an NHS body.

The ombudsman will soon be able to investigate if a health service body (other than the Scottish Dental Practice Board) or any family health service provider, has handled a complaint from a whistleblower properly under the relevant complaints handling procedure.

The SPSO's ability to investigate these issues will come into force on 27 July 2020 and a model complaints handling procedure has been published. NHS bodies such as health boards and GP practices will need to have in place a procedure which complies with the model procedure.

The SPSO's entitlement to investigate these complaints, is mainly limited to those related to the provision of health services. However, complaints about internal administrative or employment issues within GP practices can be investigated if they were impacting on patient safety or effective delivery of the service.

Raising concerns

The MDU is regularly contacted by doctors who have concerns about what they feel to be a lack of resources or unsafe practices within their organisation which may be putting patients at risk.

We can advise and support you in raising a concern in an appropriate way. If you don't feel a concern has been dealt with appropriately when raised at local level, the SPSO may now be able to investigate this.

Our medico-legal experts can be contacted on 0800 716 646 for further advice.

This page was correct at publication on 10/02/2020. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.