Primary care providers will have until September next year to name their “freedom to speak up” guardians, NHS England has said.

Initial guidance published in April said primary care providers would have until March 2017 to implement whistleblowing measures, but following a five week consultation NHS England this week extended the deadline to September 2017.

The appointment of guardians by all NHS organisations was a recommendation in Sir Robert Francis QC’s Freedom to Speak Up review.

The latest NHS England guidance said: “Each NHS primary care provider should name an individual who is independent of the line management chain and is not the direct employer as the freedom to speak up guardian, who can ensure that policies are in place and that staff know who to contact if they have a concern.”

The document sets out 11 options for choosing the guardian:

  • An arrangement with another local provider.
  • Assigned staff role within a larger provider federation/network.
  • Arrangement with the local hospital trust freedom to speak up guardian.
  • Nominated member of the local clinical commissioning group.
  • Nominated member of the local professional network.
  • Nominated member of the local representative committee.
  • Nominated member of the local optical committee.
  • Nominated member of the local dental committee.
  • Regional manager in larger provider organisations.
  • Superintendent pharmacist.
  • NHS England responsible officers.

Neil Churchill, director for patient experience at NHS England, said: “Safety in primary care depends on listening to, and acting on, concerns raised. This new guidance will help ensure that if someone witnesses a risk to patient safety, they can speak out without reprisal and confident that effective action will be taken.

“A safe NHS is an open and honest NHS where we routinely learn from mistakes and use that learning to improve patient safety.”