What is the National Guardian’s Office?
The National Guardian’s Office works to make speaking up becomes business as usual to effect cultural change in the NHS.
The office leads, trains and supports a network of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians in England and conducts case reviews of organisations when it appears that speaking up has not been handled according to best practice.
There are now over 500 fully trained guardians in NHS and independent sector organisations, national bodies and elsewhere that ensure workers can speak up about any issues impacting on their ability to do their job. The National Guardian’s Office also provides challenge and learning to the healthcare system as a whole as part of its remit.
Our office is not a regulatory or investigatory body. We are not able to investigate individual concerns or provide remedies. However, we look at instances where good practice isn’t followed and make recommendations for improvement as part of our case review process.
Who is the National Guardian?
Dr Henrietta Hughes was appointed as the National Guardian in July 2016, a key recommendation from the Francis Inquiry. She provides leadership and support to Freedom to Speak Up Guardians across England in national bodies, NHS and independent sector organisations to ensure that speaking up becomes business as usual. Previously a Medical Director at NHS England, Dr Hughes continues her clinical role one day a week as a GP in central London.
Why were Freedom to Speak Up Guardians created?
The National Guardian’s Office and the role of the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian were created in response to recommendations made in Sir Robert Francis’ report “The Freedom to Speak Up” (2015). These recommendations were made as Sir Robert found that NHS culture did not always encourage or support workers to speak up, and that patients and workers suffered as a result. Further information on the Francis Report can be found here.
What is a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian?
Freedom to Speak Up Guardians support workers to speak up when they feel that they are unable to do so by other routes. They ensure that people who speak up are thanked, that the issues they raise are responded to, and make sure that the person speaking up receives feedback on the actions taken. Guardians also work proactively to support their organisation to tackle barriers to speaking up. Freedom to Speak Up Guardians are appointed by the organisation that they support and abide by the guidance issued by the National Guardian’s Office (NGO) They follow the ‘‘universal job description’ issued by the NGO.
Who can become a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian?
Individual organisations decide who is best placed to take on the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian role. FTSU Guardians need to be able to carry out all aspects of the ‘universal Job Description’ for the FTSU Guardian role and should be able to capture the trust and confidence of workers and senior leaders. Organisations may appoint more than one FTSU Guardian.
What is the difference between a Guardian, Champion and Ambassador?
Champions and Ambassadors are often appointed to work alongside Guardians to complement the work they do, and may be especially helpful in organisations that cover a large workforce. Whilst Freedom to Speak up Guardians are expected to follow the NGO’s universal job decsription, the exact nature of the role carried out by Champions/Ambassadors varies depending on the needs of the organisation. In some cases they perform a sign-posting role, in others their role may be similar to that of a Guardian.
Which organisations should appoint Freedom to Speak Up Guardians?
Any organisation can appoint a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian. Organisations that provide services under the NHS Standard Contract (which includes but isn’t limited to NHS trusts and Foundation Trusts) are required to nominate a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian NHS primary care provider organisations are expected to follow NHS England’s guidance on Freedom to Speak Up which includes guidance on appointing Freedom to Speak Up Guardians. In addition, the National Guardian’s Office expect health and care leadership organisations and regulators to appoint Freedom to Speak Up Guardians. An increasing number of non-health organisations are also appointing Freedom to Speak Up Guardians.
Read the 2019/20 NHS standard contract.
Who pays for Freedom to Speak Up Guardians?
Freedom to Speak Up Guardians are paid for by the organisation that appoints them.
Who is my Freedom to Speak Up Guardian?
Your organisation will have information about your Freedom to Speak Up Guardian. Our Freedom to Speak Up Guardian Directory for NHS Trust and Foundation Trust Guardians is available here
Will the National Guardian intervene in my whistleblowing concern?
No. The National Guardian’s Office is not an arbitration or appeals service and cannot investigate the detailed concerns raised in specific cases.
Will the National Guardian protect people from being sacked for speaking up?
The National Guardian does not have a remit to arbitrate the outcome of individual cases or to advise individuals on the specific details of their case. It does not replace existing legal processes such as employment tribunals, or those of professional regulatory bodies.
Is the National Guardian’s Office a Prescribed Body under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 as contained within the Employment Rights Act 1996
Yes. A worker can make a disclosure to a prescribed person/body depending on the nature of the issue the want to raise. A worker who makes a qualified disclosure within the meaning of the relevant legislation to their employer, a prescribed body or a wider public disclosure, is protected by the law and should not be treated unfairly or lose their job for so doing.
How do I make a complaint about a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian?
Information on our complaints process about Freedom to Speak Up Guardians can be found here
How do I make a complaint about the National Guardian’s Office?
Information about how to make a complaint about the National Guardian’s Office can be found here.
National Guidelines on Speaking Up Training in the Health Sector in England
The NGO has developed national guidelines on the content of speaking up training for all organisations in the health sector in England to improve the quality, clarity and consistency of speaking up training. Speaking up training has an essential part to play in patient safety and the experience of workers and as such, should be considered on a par with other mandatory training.
The guidelines are set out in three parts covering three broad groups of workers: core training for all workers; line and middle managers training; and senior leaders training. They include details of the methodology that organisations could employ when designing training.
Accountability and Liaison Board
Senior representatives from the office’s sponsoring bodies form its Accountability and Liaison Board (ALB). The board members are:
We use personal data (information that relates to and identifies living people) and other information to help us to carry out our remit of leading a culture change in the NHS so that speaking up becomes business as usual.
The office is not a statutory body or regulator and therefore we do not use personal data as part of any statutory function.
Instead, we firstly use the personal data we receive to support individuals to speak up in the NHS, for example helping them to access assistance from their local Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, or signposting them to sources of independent advice, such a free legal support services. Secondly, we use the personal data contained in referrals made by individuals to review how their employers in the NHS have handled their cases of speaking up, in order to identify learning and to recommend how this can be improved. These are tasks carried out in the public interest.
We share the personal data we receive only when the individual concerned has given us their consent to do so and, where we have such consent, we share it with those persons or bodies whose role is to support individuals to speak up, for example Freedom to Speak Up Guardians. We will only share personal data without consent in exceptional circumstances where there is evidence of a need to protect individuals from the risk of harm, or from actual harm, for example with safeguarding authorities.
If you’re a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, or in a supportive speaking up role, such as a champion or ambassador, your details will be stored by the National Guardian’s Office and used for these purposes:
- Communicating with you about matters relating to the work of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians.
- Adding your contact information (name, organisation, main email address and telephone number) to the National Guardian Office’s public directory of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians if you have ticked ‘Yes’ to your details being place there.
- Giving your contact information (name, organisation, main email address and telephone number) to those who may contact the National Guardian’s Office asking for information about their Freedom to Speak Up Guardian.
This information will be stored for a period of no more than five years without further assurance being sought that it is still accurate. If, at any time, you would like your information removed from our system, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The National Guardian’s Office is hosted by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which is the data controller for the purpose of data protection law. Please see link to the main privacy notice on the CQC’s website for further details.