PATIENT safety campaigners are to meet health secretary Shona Robison to demand action over the treatment of NHS whistleblowers and risks to patients' lives.

Pressure group Patients First Scotland (PFS) wants the Scottish Government to hold a public inquiry or accept the findings and recommendations of a major report.

The UK-wide Freedom To Speak Up review, released last month by Sir Robert Francis QC, was scathing in its criticism of health boards' treatment of staff who revealed serious concerns about patient safety and care. Many were victimised, bullied or hounded out of their jobs.

The Scottish campaigners want the government follow the Francis review recommendations and order health chiefs to end suspension, dismissal, bullying and victimisation of whistleblowers, often with "gagging" clauses preventing staff from discussing their cases.

Scottish health boards have continued to use gagging clauses despite an announcement from the Scottish Government last year that the presumption must be against the use of such confidentiality agreements.

Earlier this month the Herald revealed that more than 40 staff had been subject to such clauses, working for eight different health boards, since the the health secretary Alex Neil's announcement.

Dr Sukhomoy Das, who lost his post at Crosshouse Hospital in Ayrshire after voicing fears over the treatment of patients by a senior doctor, is the newly-elected chair of PFSl He will lead a delegation of doctors, nurses and other health professionals to meet Ms Robison at the Scottish Parliament tomorrow [Tues].

They also want an explanation for the lack of an independent NHS regulator in Scotland, as there is in England, and an apparent failure to apply health and safety at work laws in the health sector, which they insist would increase patient safety and protect whistleblowers.

Dr Das said: "Patients First Scotland is hoping that the new cabinet secretary for health will listen and act decisively because under the current situation, people's lives are being put at risk and the NHS is losing dedicated talent and money.

"The present strategy of NHS management can only benefit them in the short-term, and doing nothing is not an option for the government.

"Patients First is eager to to engage positively with the Scottish Government, the Royal Colleges and the health boards."

The Scottish Government has confirmed that Ms Robison will meet the group.

A government spokeswoman said: "All NHS staff should have the confidence to speak up without fear and with the knowledge that any genuine concern will be treated seriously and investigated properly. Any member of staff who wants to raise a patient safety concern can also use the NHSScotland National Confidential Alert Line which passes on whistleblowing concerns to the relevant health board or regulator."

Health boards have a responsibility under NHS Scotland Staff Governance Standards, to ensure that it is safe and acceptable for staff to speak up about wrongdoing or malpractice within their organisation, she said, particularly in relation to patient safety. Boards must also ensure any concerns are robustly investigated.

The spokeswoman added: "Work is already underway to develop a robust package of measures which encourage and support staff to raise any concerns they may have about practices in NHSScotland. We have welcomed Sir Robert Francis' Freedom to Speak Up Review, which will inform our thinking and have recently consulted on introducing a duty of candour across health and social care."

In response to calls for an independent regulator, she said: "Healthcare Improvement Scotland has wide ranging powers to scrutinise the NHS and to make sure services are improved across the NHS, while all NHS boards are fully accountable to the Scottish Government."

Earlier this month the Scottish Government refused to confirm how many confidentiality clauses have been used since Mr Neil announced they should be avoided in February 2014, saying data covering the previous 12 months would be published in April. It now says figures covering the period April 2014-March 2015 will be presented to the Public Audit committee in May.