The government has launched a consultation on new proposals to expand protection for NHS whistleblowers.

The draft plans aim to prohibit discrimination against whistleblowers should they apply for jobs with NHS employers, and also strengthen legal options for whistleblowers if they believe they have been discriminated against because of their actions.

The changes stem from recommendations made by Sir Robert Francis’ in the independent Freedom to Speak Up review, which found that some people had struggled to find re-employment in the NHS after making protected disclosures about patient safety.

Under the proposals, the government wants to give the applicant a right to complain to an employment tribunal if they feel they have been discriminated against because it appears they have previously ‘blown the whistle’.

The regulations also seek to determine a timeframe in which a complaint to the tribunal must be lodged, set out the remedies that the tribunal may or must award if a complaint is upheld, and make provision as to the amount of compensation that can be awarded.

“Today we move another step closer to creating a culture of openness in the NHS, where people who have the courage to speak up about patient safety concerns are listened to, not vilified,” said Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

“These welcome changes will prohibit whistleblowers being discriminated against when they seek re-employment in the NHS, ultimately ensuring staff feel they are protected with the law on their side.”

The first whistle-blowing policy was published in April last year to help standardise the way organisations should support staff who raise concerns.

Also based on recommendations from the Freedom to Speak up Review, it assigned organisations with new responsibilities to appoint a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, an independent and impartial source of advice to staff at any stage of raising a concern, and investigate any concerns not resolved quickly through line managers.