The UK’s healthcare regulators have published their annual whistleblowing report the 12 months from April 2019 to March 2020.

Whistleblowing in Healthcare Regulation

Whistleblowing is the term used when someone who works for an employer raises a concern about malpractice, risk (for example about patient safety), wrongdoing or possible illegality, which harms, or creates a risk of harm, to people who use the service, colleagues or the wider public.

Ideally, such concerns should be dealt with by the employer. However, if the management have not dealt with those concerns by responding appropriately to them, perhaps by using the employer’s own whistleblowing policy, or the worker does not feel confident that the management will deal with those concerns properly, they can instead make a disclosure to, in this case, a healthcare regulatory body such as those listed below.

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) protects employees from workplace reprisal for raising a concern which they believe to be genuine.

Disclosures could be about the safety of patients or people who use services, the failure of a provider to comply with the law or the national standards of quality and safety, financial malpractice or risks to staff or other people.

Healthcare Regulator’s reports

  • General Medical Council (GMC) – received 36 whistleblowing disclosures during that period, of which 22 led to regulatory action.
  • General Dental Council (GDC) – received 116 whistleblowing disclosures during that period (up from 75 in 2018–19), of which 95 led to regulatory action.
  • General Osteopathic Council (GOC) – received 36 whistleblowing disclosures during that period, of which 22 led to regulatory action.
  • General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) – received 22 whistleblowing disclosures during that period, of which 18 led to regulatory action.
  • Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) – received 8 whistleblowing disclosures during that period, of which 7 led to regulatory action.
  • Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) – received 107 whistleblowing disclosures during that period, all of these led to regulatory action.

Regulatory Action Resulting from Whistleblowing

From the 2020 report, some sort of regulatory action was taken in the majority of cases. 

The report defines regulatory action as:

  • referral to its Fitness to Practise team or any other fitness to
  • practise process
  • opening an investigation
  • advice or guidance given to discloser, employer, education body or
  • any other person or organisation
  • registration actions
  • other enforcement actions

In cases where the disclosure was assessed via a regulatory action but it was then found that there was not enough information to proceed, the disclosure is categorised as ‘no action – not enough information’.

We specialise in healthcare defence and representation.  Because of our experience in the criminal courts and other adversarial tribunals our special expertise is at contested hearings.  Healthcare workers facing regulatory action can speak to an expert barrister for a free initial case assessment with no obligation.

Stephen McCaffrey

I am a GMC Defence Barrister who has represented large number of medical professionals before their regulatory bodies in either first instance proceedings or appeals.  I can help with all matters relating to GMC Fitness to Practise Referrals issues including:

  • GMC fitness to practise referrals
  • GMC fitness to practise hearings
  • Appeals against a MPTS Tribunal determination
  • MPTS Interim Order hearings
  • Appeals against a MPTS Interim Orders Tribunal determination
  • Preparing your case before the Case Examiners
  • Help with the decision of the Case Examiners
  • Help with voluntary removal
  • Registration advice
  • Appeal against refusal of registration
  • Restoration to the Register
  • Investigation and disciplinary hearings at work
  • Criminal investigation and proceedings
  • Police cautions
  • DBS [Disclosure and Barring Service] issues


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